As a priest, I used to dread the Instructor Razuvious fight, as I truly felt the burden of the raid’s success or failure rest on my shoulders. But seriously, mind control, bone-shield, taunt, attack, rinse, repeat. It’s not hard. Honestly, the one fight in Naxx I fear most now is Kel’Thuzad. I still feel the burden of success or failure, but the fight is much less under my control.
Kel’Thuzad, I believe, is the fight that truly reveals the weakness of my guild’s healing team. The encounter is by no means difficult, but it does require monitoring cooldowns, mana, positioning, health, and debuffs in a way that no other fight in the zone does. And while weak healers can often be carried through instances by stronger ones, the nature of the Kel’Thuzad fight doesn’t really allow for this.
There are plenty of guides and walkthroughs for the Kel’Thuzad fight, and rather than itemize his abilities and describe in detail the mechanics of the encounter, I’d like to focus on how a healer — any healer, not just a discipline priest (although admittedly, most of my comments here will pertain to priests) — should approach this fight. I use the singular “healer” here, rather than “healers,” because while you can, as usual, assign healers to raid and/or to tank healing, you can never count on the elusive “someone else” to take care of what is arguably Kel’Thuzad’s most dangerous ability, Frost Blast.
The Kel’Thuzad fight has three stages and as such, always seems to last a good long while. Keep in mind not only the length of the encounter, but also its increasing intensity. Use your shadowfiend early. I know it’s terribly unfashionable, but if you do not have a good mana pool or if you do not have decent mana regeneration or if you know you are always OOM on difficult fights, use a mana potion. Consider your HPM (heals per mana) and cast efficiently. Yes, there is a lot of AOE damage during this fight, but no, spamming Prayer of Healing or Holy Nova probably isn’t the wisest of spell choices. Use Inner Focus. Don’t tell me you’ve “blown all your cooldowns” when you’ve not used an ability that grants you a mana-free heal.
Spread out. Everyone needs to stand at least 10 meters apart during this encounter for two reasons. the Detonate Mana debuff deals damage to and the Frost Blast ice-blocks will “spread” to nearby players. Restoration Druids always seem to be particularly guilty of hopping and jumping around while they heal. OMG, yay, you have instant-cast spells. But sit the fuck down. (OK, don’t sit, but you get my point). When you move, you increase the chances of damaging or being damaged by your fellow raiders. Unless you find yourself standing in a fissure, you really shouldn’t be mobile during this fight.
Kel’Thuzad casts Frost Blast throughout the fight, and in my experience, this is what wipes the raid. And even if it doesn’t wipe the raid, it always seems to cost at least one life. Frost Blasted players must be healed. Penance Priest wrote a great post a few weeks ago about handling the Frost Blast debuff and rightly pointed out that neither vent nor Deadly Boss Mods really suffice for notifying the healers of who’s entombed in ice. The affected player will take 104% of their maximum health in damage in four seconds and as such requires two things from healers: 1) an immediate response and 2) a quick, but powerful heal. You can set up both Grid and Healbot to highlight players who are Frost Blasted (see my post on setting up Grid here). This is far more efficient than having to pan your camera around waiting for the ice blocks to appear, then clicking on the affected player, then casting a spell. Perhaps you can heal one person in time that way. Perhaps. But you certainly can’t heal more than one, and Frost Blast, much like in-vitro-fertilization, often results in multiples. A healing add-on is not a crutch; expecting the other healers in the raid to respond to Frost Blasts because you are too damn slow — now, that’s a crutch.
The Kel’Thuzad fight is the one time, as a discipline priest, where I am not casting Penance on the tank. Penance is a fast and powerful spell, but it has a 8 second cooldown, and so I save it for the Frost Blasts. Other healing classes might consider doing the same: Shamans can save Nature’s Swiftness or Riptide for their Chain Heal, for example, when Frost Blast hits several melee.
Seriously, I suck at math. If there are elaborate calculations to be done, I look to K- to do them. But I have enough of a grasp of simple arithmetic, thank you very much, to tell you this: If you have four seconds to heal people, you want to use a fast-casting spell. Greater Heal and Healing Touch (untalented, unhasted), for example take 3 seconds to cast. Yes, they’re big heals. But they’re slow, and if your reaction time in getting to the affected player is the slight bit off, they’re dead before you can complete the cast. More non-mathematically-minded math insights: if players will be taking 104% of their maximum health in damage over that four second duration, you’ll want to cast a spell that can actually provide sufficient healing. Yes, Renew is instant-cast and as such fulfills the “fast cast” requirement. But it is neither a big nor a fast heal. The HoT ticks for 15 seconds, providing at 2000 bonus spellpower, about 750 health every 3 seconds. Honestly, I don’t know if that’d keep a shadowfiend alive; it’s certain insufficient for a player.
If you are faced with multiple ice-blocked players in your range, you will have to make some decisions. Personally, I don’t heal the jerk who continues to insist that Disc isn’t a viable raid spec. Die, asshole, die. Oh, looks like you don’t provide much viable DPS. But I digress. When I see Grid light up with multiple Frost Blasts, I prioritize healers and Kaleyen (well, I love him, dammit, and he’s our best DPS to boot). I have successfully healed three frost blasted players so I know it’s possible, and I don’t like it when healers try to insist that they can
only save one life. You can and must do better than that. After assessing the priorities for heals (and really, this is why you should have Grid or Healbot, because shouts in vent to “heal me!!” just don’t give a healer enough time to make these sorts of decisions), I PW:S my #2 priority, Penance my #1 priority, and PW:S #3, Flash Heal #2 and then Flash Heal #3. Now granted, it helps when there are other healers also responding to the Frost Blasts, and I doubt that my heals alone will save poor ol’ Priority #3. But the point still stands: you can and should respond to all the affected players within your range. React like you’re solo-healing Kel’Thuzad.
One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was one of our holy priests on her warrior alt, waiting for the adds to spawn for phase 3, bandaging frost blasted players because the healer on that side of the room was utterly oblivious. Seriously, if you’re not as useful as a bandage in an encounter…