Naxxramas Strategy: The Four Horsemen

17 01 2009
editor’s note: to date, I have not been able to run any of Naxx on 25-man (heroic) difficulty, so the boss mechanics may change slightly in that format. This post is addressed from the 10-man setting.  

Many, if not all of you are taking your first steps into Naxx by now. On most servers, a large number of guilds have successfully cleared it in its entirety at this point as well. I’m writing more for those who are new here, in order for you to better help understand the mechanics of the fights and what to expect so that you can successfully collect your epics! Regardless of what role you have in the fights – tank, DPS or healing – I’d recommend that you read over the roles that each group will be performing in order to have a clear understanding of how the whole fight will go.

The Four Horsemen

  At first glance (and likely, at first experience as well) this would appear to be the most chaotic encounter in the instance. It is very challenging to master, and will require that everyone in the Raid, without exception, be aware of their placement and positioning at all times. Raiders will be continually rotating spots with each other and the entire fight will be in motion for its duration. Yet, beyond what appears so random at first glance, this fight is actually one requiring a near-perfect choreography from all ten members. If everyone moves into the right places at the right times, then the fight is actually an exceptionally easy one and should be a one-shot every week.

  Trash pulls leading up to the Horsemen from Gothik are very dangerous. There are many patrols with long routes that will be a threat to add at any time. Take care when pulling to ensure that you face only the intended group of mobs.

  Be aware that the Death Knight Captains will produce the Hysteria effect on surrounding mobs, making them hit for a very high amount on non-tanks, and a major amount on tanks as well. When facing one of these pulls, it is a near-necessity that the ability be removed. Your best option is a Mass Dispel, though Purge and Spellsteal will suffice if no Priest is present. These particular pulls have a lot of splash damage that tends to catch lighter-armored melee targets like Rogues, Cat Druids and Enhancement Shamans with some pretty heavy bursts. Instead of approaching the combat in one large AOE mass, a more survivable tactic is to have the Main Tank hold the bulk of them while the Offtank peels one mob at a time off and to a safe distance (maybe 10 yards away) where it can be focus fired by Melee and Ranged DPS.

  Clear any groups that occupy or patrol through the area between Gothik and the Horsemen to be safe; if you have people running back in after a wipe, you certainly don’t want them to encounter patrols. You will now face the Four Horsemen, Kel’Thuzad’s elite Death Knights.

Tanks– As there are Four Horsemen, you will need four Tanks. Don’t freak out about this – only two of them need to be “for real” Tanks. Two of the Riders will be tanked by some pretty unconventional classes for tanking, but that will be covered in the choreography section. Those assigned to tank will fan out along the edges of the room to their respective positions before the pull. From the vantage point that you are facing the Horsemen at the door, Korth’azz’ Tank will move to the corner immediately to your left, and Rivendare’s Tank will move to the area immediately to the right. The “special” Tanks selected for Blaumeux and Zeliek will work their way around the outer wall until they reach the center of the back wall.

DPS– All DPS will follow the Korth’azz tank and move to the immediate left of the room entry point, with the exception of a single Ranged DPS unit that is designated to tank the Horsemen in the rear. That unit will move to the back wall as noted in the Tank section.

Healers– Ideally, you have 2 1/2 Healers, which is to say that there are 2 “true” Healers and a third player functioning in a DPS spec that has Healing capabilities. Ideal candidates for this job are Elemental Shamans, Balance Druids and Shadow Priests. Paladin off-specs do not work as well due to the fact that Prot Pallies will be occupying one of the Tank roles, and Ret Pallies have both limited Spellpower and mana pools; however, if the only other person in the Raid outside of the two true Healers is a Ret Paladin, you’ll have to make due. One of the Healers will pull duty as a Tank on the rear mobs. If a Paladin is present, they should be the first choice to go as they don’t have the AOE Healing strength that the other classes do. Absent a Paladin, choose the next best candidate; in this scenario, the stronger of the two Healers should remain in a forward position – just inside the doorway and fairly well in the center, from a side-to-side perspective – while the lesser of the Healers moves to the rear wall.

Starting positions and pull locations for the Horsemen. Blaumeux is Red, Korthazz Yellow, Rivendare Green and Zeliek Blue.
Starting positions and pull locations for the Horsemen. Blaumeux is Red, Korth’azz Yellow, Rivendare Green and Zeliek Blue.

Choreography

  This is the important part of the fight. Every player must know exactly what their movements will be for the entire fight and respond accordingly. Failure to do so means death. Correct movement will make this encounter run very smoothly.
  To start with, the reason that so much movement is needed is due to the base ability of the Horsemen. While each one has a certain special attack (some more troublesome than others), they will all cast their “Mark” on any player in range of them, approximately 35-40 yards by my best estimation, though I’m sure that there is actually a hard and fast number. Basically, if you are in their quarter of the room, you’ll be hit with it. While the mark itself is resistable, damage from it is not and it cannot be Cleansed, Bubbled or Iceblocked. In short, you will acquire them. The Mark causes an exponentially increasing amount of damage to be incurred with each added stack. One, two or three will not cause too much distress. Four and five start to hurt. Six and seven may kill you outright. If you live to eight, you may want to question why you let it get that high. Should they cast 100 marks in total, they will Enrage and wipe the Raid; however, they are not likely to reach this amount unless a large amount of DPS has died early in the fight.
  The stacks only count if you are receiving marks from the same Horseman. Thus, if you have three from Blaumeux and move away into Zeliek’s spot, the marks that he applies will count as one, two, etc regardless of how many Blaumeux stacked on you. Additionally, the marks will fade with time, 15 seconds after application. Thus, if you start reaching dangerous levels from one Rider, you must move out of their range and wait for theirs to dissipate. This is tricky when all four Riders are up, as moving away from one means moving into another.
  There are other mechanics to consider about the fight as well. Each Rider has a specific attack that they will use on anyone in range. Korth’azz will call down a Meteor on his Tank, which hits for a significant amount of base damage. Fortunately, the damage is dispersed evenly among anyone within 8 yards of the Tank and can thus be mitigated. Damage can also be mitigated through Fire Resistance Aura, or a Fire Resistance Totem. Due to the fact that this is causing resistance on several people at once, these mitigators should be used if possible.
  Rivendare will cast a spell called Unholy Shadow, which has similar mechanics to a Warlock’s Immolate or a Shaman’s Flame Shock. Up-front damage with a DoT tick. The spell will only be cast on his highest aggro target (his tank).
  Blaumeux will use two abilities on her Tank. As she is a Ranged Combatant, they will be cast at the player closest to her within 45 yards. Her primary ranged attack is Shadowbolt, which does not hit too hard. She will additionally create Void Zones at regular intervals and attempt to place them on a location occupied by a player. If you stand in them, it’s bad news. They dissipate after 1:15. If you are tanking her, be sure that you do not accidentally create a wall of Void Zones that prevents you from moving in range of her marks and attacks.
  Zeliek will cast a Holy Bolt attack, which is basically Smite. It does not hit very hard.
  Finally, if any Horseman attempts to cast an attack but finds no target in range, then the entire Raid will be hit with a substantial AOE attack. Thus, at no time should any one of the Horsemen be unoccupied.
  Once everyone is in position, begin the fight by having Rivendare’s Tank move close enough to tag him with a ranged weapon. Upon aggro, each Horseman will immediately ride deep into the corner assigned to them, as shown in the diagram. If you are tanking Korth’azz, you will not need go to meet him, he will come to you. The Rivendare Tank should retreat back to the corner as Rivendare advances in order to meet him at his destination point. The players assigned to Tank Blaumeux and Zeliek need only move slightly towards their respective corners, far enough as to be out of range of Marks from the Horseman that they are not immediately tanking, but not too deeply in.
  This is the desperate part of the encounter, because success or failure hinges completely on one thing: how fast Korth’azz can be taken down. There should be one Tank and five DPS players waiting for him to arrive. As soon as he gets there, blow ALL cooldowns to get him down. Bloodlust is very helpful, but any ability that increases damage output for a short time, and all trinkets that can be had, should be used. Korth’azz *must* die before six Marks can be applied in order to create a safe buffer zone for the Raid that allows rotation.
 
  Korth’azz is the first target to die because of his Meteor ability. Every single person who is on the Korth’azz assault must stack as close to the Tank as possible to mitigate the damage; do not forget to do so. Assuming that your Raid can muster a significant enough burst to down him, players must immediately be ready to move as the Mark-free area created by his absence now allows rotation.
  To begin with, Korth’azz’ Tank should immediately move to engage Rivendare. The moment he arrives and picks The Baron up, that Tank should rotate back to Korth’azz’ old position and out of combat until the Marks time out and clear. The Healer located just inside the doorway, who had been healing both the Rivendare Tank and Korth’azz’ entire combat group to this point, will remain in that position long enough to top off the inbound Rivendare Tank (the old Korth’azz Tank) and apply any HoTs and reactive Heals that they can, at which point they too should vacate the area and move towards Korth’azz’ old position in order to let their Marks clear.
  This will leave the new Rivendare Tank without a Healer for a few seconds, though that should not be a problem. Whichever player from the DPS group that fit the “3rd Healer” role will move within range to heal that Tank as soon as the Korth’azz marks have dissipated; all in all, this equates to a window of about 5-10 seconds that the Tank must last out before a Heal is inbound. All other DPS from the Korth’azz team will move in and engage Rivendare once their Korth’azz Marks clear.
 
  At this point, the original Rivendare Tank and his Healer are out of range and out of combat. Once they have cleared all Marks, that Tank can then rotate back in to take Rivendare, and the original Korth’azz tank moves back to the safe zone where he tanked Korth’azz. Similarly, the Healer should communicate to the stand-in once they have cleared their Marks and rotate that person out. All DPS that is on Rivendare at this time needs to be aware of their Marks. If a stack is allowed to build to 4, it is time to disengage and move to the safe area while the Tank and Healer rotation continues. Rivendare does not need to be burned down with the urgency that Korth’azz did, so recognize that survival and sustaining DPS over the entire fight is better than standing in to squeeze out a few more hits only to face certain death on the next mark. Eventually, Rivendare will succumb.
  All this time, the players in the rear will have to occupy Blaumeux and Zeliek. Fortunately, the two of them do not hit very hard, and they cast their Marks at a longer interval than Korth’azz and Rivendare do. Each player should be remaining in aggro range of their respective charge (about 30 yards off is fine) until they have reached 3 Marks. At that point, they switch positions and let the stacked Marks clear while acquiring the Marks from their new Horseman. during this whole movement, the Ranged DPS player should be chipping away at whomever they are occupying, and the Healer should be keeping both of them as topped off as possible. The two of them will continue this rotation, back and forth, until the rest of the Raid arrives once Rivendare is down.
  At this point, it becomes a simple matter of rotating in and out as Marks stack as there is ample free space to back into. Ranged DPS should focus on Blaumeux, as her Void Zones can make it difficult on Melee. Healers will find that they can take up station at the dead center of the room, on the Horsemen’s platform, and be simultaneously in range to heal the Raid while remaining out of range for any incoming Marks. As long as everyone is patient and disciplined about rotating out after 3-4 Marks and waiting for them to clear, and the Raid makes sure that someone is in range of Blaumeux and Zeliek at all times so that they don’t go bananas, then they will drop – and you get to collect loots!
  The Horsemen spawn a chest in the middle of the room on death, which contains a T7 Chestpiece token and another item. After dividing up the loot, use the teleporter in their room to return to the central hub of Naxxramas and congratulate yourself on a job well done!
  As you can see after reading the choreography, the entire equation hinges on how fast you can get Korth’azz out of the picture. if your Raid can generate 30 seconds of sustained burst, you’ll be sitting pretty.
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