Naxxramas Strategy: Sapphiron

20 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.

Sapphiron

  Sapphiron is a massive skeletal dragon who serves as The Gatekeeper to both Kel’Thuzad and The Eye of Eternity. Should your Raid manage to down him, both will become accessible. Downing him is not a difficult fight in terms of mechanics, as everything that is done in here has been seen on bosses before. It can be a punishing fight, though, if the Raid is not geared for it.

  Sapphiron is a major reason why all of those epic Polar / Glacial pieces are available to be crafted. While you certainly don’t need them to survive the encounter, gearing up with some of this equipment will make it significantly easier. The unfortunate fact about the new Frost Resist gear is that it is horribly 2-dimensional for most classes – Stamina and Resistance. The upshot is that each piece has several sockets, so you can gem in the direction of your spec needs and make up some ground.

  Sapphiron has no trash leading up to him. Once you clear your 4th Wing and step in the teleporter, it will transport you back to the central hub of Naxxramas. Being that it was the 4th one, though, the central teleporter will be activated and you will thus make a double jump, teleporting instantly on arrival from the hub into Sapphiron’s room. Initially, it will appear that there isn’t much in the room. There is, and as soon as you cross the snowbank at the base of the ramp, Sapphiron will assemble and initiate combat.

Tanks– Sapphiron requires only one Tank. When he is on the ground, he will be tanked like any other dragon. In terms of Frost Resist gear, the Main Tank should stick with their normal tanking set. The Exception would (possibly) be a Druid Tank, where the Armor + Stamina from the set may actually be preferable, assuming that it is gemmed heavily for avoidance.

  When Sapphiron is in the air, he will not be Tanked (or, be much of anything’d, really), but upon landing he will resume attacking his highest aggro target prior to taking flight.

DPS – Sapphiron functions with the same mechanics as any other dragon in the game. Don’t stand in the 180 degree arc in front of him, as he cleaves. Don’t stand near the tail, or you’ll be tail swiped. Melee should get just inside his back legs and attack the ribcage from the sides. Ranged DPS may move wherever they want during the ground phase, though is is a good idea to stay in (relatively) the same area as the rest of the Raid. This is because much of the healing will be taking place through group / AOE healing methods, and also to make sure that you are in the right place for the air phase.

  In terms of cooldowns, Bloodlust and such, wait until you are about 2-3 air phases in; if things are going well at this point, use them as it’s likely that the group will continue to execute properly and you are thus not wasting those cooldowns. Use lesser cooldowns like Berserk, Rapid Fire, Blade Flurry, etc as frequently as you can throughout the fight, ideally close to the start of a given ground phase for maximum return.

Healers– Sapphiron will likely require 3 Healers, though it’s possible to do it with 2 if there are a lot of people in Frost Resist gear. As a Healer, consider strongly acquiring Frost Resist pieces for yourself, as this will allow you a lot more latitude to heal others during the fight, and not spend so much time worrying about keeping yourself alive. One Healer will primarily be healing the Main Tank, but due to the aura in the room, multi-target healing is extremely valuable in this fight. Melee DPS should be easy to heal as they will always be bunched up; pay special attention to Ranged DPS and other Healers, though, as they may be forced to move to a position where they aren’t included in Chain Heals and Wild Growths.

  When Sapphiron iceblocks a member of the Raid, they will also sustain a degree of damage; however, while in the iceblock, they are unhealable until it releases. Be aware of who is in the blocks so that you can respond accordingly as soon as you are able.

Fight Mechanics: Initial pull will be done via the Main Tank moving into aggro range. If it is the initial pull, where he first must combine before appearing, then the Main Tank will have a fair amount of time to run into position. If you are trying him for the second time or more, he will already be formed and awaiting combat, in which case he will aggro to the Main Tank quickly and need to be moved to the tanking positi0n. In either case, the Main Tank should endeavour to turn him away from the Raid so that he faces the back wall (though it is not necessary to move him against the wall; the middle of the room is fine).

  The body of the Raid should sally out after the Main Tank moves, moving as a unit to either the right or left of his body. Spreading out to both sides is not ideal in 10-man due to the need to keep everyone in healing range. Give the Main Tank a few seconds to establish initial aggro before commencing in with DPS. Sapphiron has a 15 minute enrage timer which may cause some initial anxiety; this is definitely an endurance fight, and you should expect 7-10 minutes’ time will be needed to down him. However, you should not be pushing up against the timer in nearly any case, so don’t worry about it too much.

  During the ground phase, damage will come in several forms. Primarily, it will come from his Frost Aura, which ticks for a fairly sizable degree and is the primary driver towards the need for constant healing. Additionally, there will be two Blizzards active that will move around (like the ones in the Shade of Aran fight). They cause a significant amount of damage and add a movement slowing effect as well. Do your best to avoid them if possible. Finally, the Raid will be periodically hit with a Life Drain ability (curse) which must be immediately removed by anyone available that may remove curses. This ability will not only deal damage to the recipient (he will inflict it on two people simultaneously, with some frequency), but also heals Sapphiron for an incrementally greater amount than is being drained. Again, the debuff absolutely must be removed as expediently as possible.

  Basically, this phase will come down to the ability of your Healers to counter the damage dealing abilities, and the Raid’s ability to mitigate the incoming damage so as to place less of a strain on those Healers. So long as you are not standing in a Blizzard, it is therefore best that Ranged / Healing stay bunched somewhat (Melee should be reasonably bunched already) in order to make AOE healing spells as effective as possible.

  After a short while, Sapphiron will take to the air. The Raid should now congregate loosely together; stay well apart from each other (15 yards or more, if possible), but in the same general vicinity. Shortly after initiating the air phase, he will strike someone with an Ice Bolt that will freeze them in place in an iceblock. If you are the one hit, congratulations. You get a free pass into the next ground phase. Everyone else should take note of the location of that iceblocked player IMMEDIATELY and run closer to it, as it will be your salvation shortly. Do not bunch up too close, though. Sapphiron will iceblock a second player momentarily, and anyone standing too close will receive collateral damage (same thing applies to the first iceblock), so if the Raid is stacked in one tight spot, they will take a lot of damage. Essentially, you will want to move to a position that allows you to get to that iceblock in under 5 seconds.

  After the second iceblock is delivered, you will see the emote, “Sapphiron takes a deep breath”. From the time of this emote, you have five seconds to live, as he is about to bathe the entire room with a breath weapon that will deal enough damage to one-shot anyone, no matter their health or resistance. The two players in the iceblocks will be immune to any of the damage, and need not worry about this.

  The remainder of the Raid must get into position behind one of the two iceblocks in the 5 seconds before he deploys the breath weapon; as they are solid objects, they will work as a line-of-sight obstacle and protect anyone behind them from all damage. Be aware that they are very narrow, however, and care should be taken when positioning to be sure that you are centered behind them. Once in position, if you have time, this is a good opportunity to bandage, or cast a group heal while waiting for the big boom.

  As soon as Sapphiron has used the breath weapon, iceblocked players will be released and the Raid will again resume with ground phase tactics. This cycle repeats until either Sapphiron or the Raid is destroyed, or the enrage timer hits.

**************************

  On a personal note, I’ve been in on two successful attempts with Sapphiron as of this writing. The first time we tried him, it took several tries before getting him down, but once we got the hang of things it moved fairly well. The second time was a one-shot, and 2 minutes faster than the first kill. In both situations I was using my Shaman, Manchego, with a Resto spec and Chain Heal spamming the Raid at large.

  I had a lot of issues the first time around with damage received; it was our first time attempting Sapph, so there was a learning curve for everyone but I know that I struggled a lot and it was frustrating to me (and likely others). In all, we wound up downing him on our 8th attempt. I tried to run the first 6 without proper Resist Gear; I don’t think anyone else was using any of the crafted Resist Gear either, though. Particularly, the Blizzards were an issue. For attempt #7, I flipped over to my bank alt and mailed myself mats and gems for the 3 pieces of Polar Mail (Manchego is a Leatherworker). For Red, Blue and Prismatic sockets, I use 9 spellpower / 3 MP5 gems, and yellow sockets got 8 Intellect / 3 MP5. I opted to gem this way as I knew that my Mana regeneration over the course of such a long fight was going to be an area of primary concern for me. Fortunately, between Totems, Potions and Replenishment, I have been able to maintain a comfortable mana pool for the fight despite the inherent weakness possessed by the gear and OOM has not been an issue.

  Try #7 was unfortunately not very representative as an aggro pull issue right at the inception of the pull meant an immediate wipe; however, the time after that (and the attempt the following week) were easier for me to handle by a large margin. I firmly believe that increasing the survivability of one or more Healers (esp a Shaman or Druid) is key to this fight, until such time as your Raid’s gearing is ratcheted up to the point that you’re overgearing this fight (and can then try for the achievement). Being able to focus less on my own survival allowed me a lot more latitude to focus on healing others and cleansing the Life Drain debuff. If you have a Healer that has that kind of cushion for this fight (provided they get the iceblock mechanic), I would expect that it flows pretty smoothly each time.

  Additionally, WWS Raid Reports for both fights in which I was using the Polar Gear (3 piece, plus Paladin Frost Resist aura, for 417 Frost resist in total) showed me as receiving a significantly lower amount of incoming damage than any other member of the Raid; I took only 75% of the damage of the #9 person, and an even lower ratio on everyone else. It also makes a difference with the ability to resist the Blizzard chill effect, as I rarely have to deal with it for more than a brief bit of time, which means less time caught up in it.

  In short, get your Healer (and anyone else that is willing, but the Main Tank) some crafted Frost Resist gear, and this fight is ridiculously easy if you can nail the air phases.

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