Formerly Hardcore #4: Adventures in BRF, Part 4

Ragar finishes off Warlords of Draenor's newest raid

Hello and welcome to the 4th edition of Formerly Hardcore, ZAMs column on Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. For our fourth column, we’re continuing our look at WoW’s latest raid, Blackrock Foundry. So far we’ve covered eight 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 two bosses to go.

Blast Furnace: Buried in Adds, Everything’s On Fire

The Black Forge has been dismantled, cutting off the Iron Horde’s supply of new armaments. With the Iron Assembly slain as well, the Iron Horde’s navy has taken a major hit and they’ve lost much of their capability to move equipment and personnel by sea or train. Both of those can be repaired or restocked though. If we really want to deal a major blow to the Iron Horde and Blackrock clans, we need to hit them somewhere that they can’t recover from: the Blast Furnace. Deep within the Foundry, this furnace is the source of the Blackrock clan’s strength. A primal elemental as old as Draenor itself is trapped inside; the heat emanating from the elemental gives the Blackrock clan the ability to smelt blackrock ore, which is so dense that ordinary flame cannot even soften it. Destroy the Blast Furnace and you’ve struck at the heart of the Blackrock clan’s power.

There’s all the fight lore, so let’s move onto the Blast Furnace fight itself. There’s a reason the Blast Furnace fight is usually the last or next to last fight (some might leave Iron Maidens for last) most guilds will have before moving on to Blackhand. This is a fairly complicated, heavy movement fight and the ugliest phase is right at the beginning. When you enter the room, you see a named orc in the middle of the room (Foreman Feldspar), a couple smaller orcs (Security Guards and Furnace Engineers), and a Bellows Operator on either side of the furnace. When the fight begins, your group will split in two (one tank, some healers and half the DPS) and head toward the Bellows Operators, with your main tank grabbing the Foreman as well. For general kill order on these mobs, the Foreman is top priority since he adds a significant amount of damage to the raid with Rupture zones, Pyroclasm and Hot Blooded; after he’s down, it’s the Bellows Operators, Furnace Engineers and Security Guards in that order. That’s just a rough guide though and you should be doing as much cleave as possible to take down the little adds as often as possible since more will continue to come out as Phase 1 and 2 progress. As the tank you’ll be moving your groups occasionally - the Security Guards will be dropping Defense fields on the ground, causing creatures standing in the AoE to take 90% less damage, so you need to keep your groups out of those as much as possible. The Feldspar tank will likely need to do more moving as well if someone drops a Rupture too close to the group.

Now that the kill order is established, let’s talk about how you’re actually going to get out of Phase 1. Next to the Bellows Operators on the sides of the furnace, you’ll find Heat Regulators which are one of the safety measures keeping the elemental inside the Blast Furnace. We need to destroy these regulators, but they can’t be targeted by player abilities - that’s where the adds come in. The Furnace Engineers have a stash of Bombs with them that they’ll periodically throw at a random non-tank player in range. These Bombs have a 15-second fuse and once they go off, they’ll do damage to anything within range, including the Heat Regulators. Players with the targeted Bombs, as well as anyone who grabs a lit Bomb from the Cluster of Lit Bombs the Engineer drops on death, need to run over to a Heat Regulator and let their Bomb detonate on top. The Engineers can Repair this damage though if players don’t interrupt or kill them. With enough bomb damage, both Heat Regulators will be dismantled and you’ll move into Phase 2.

With the Heat Regulators destroyed, the elemental at the core of the Furnace is now revealed: the Heart of the Mountain. In an effort to keep him contained, four Primal Elementalists rush in to hold him captive. Your new goal: slay the Elementalists. This is complicated by the fact that they have Damage Shields which make them immune to all damage. The key to this problem comes with Phase 2’s new mob spawn, the Slag Elemental. These new spawns will Fixate on random players in the raid and cannot be tanked; luckily they don’t do a significant amount of damage to their target. As the Fixate target you’ll be kiting the Slag Elemental over to one of the Elementalists, where your ranged DPS will then blow them up. The Slag Elemental will cast Slag Bomb when they die which will deal damage to everyone in melee range (hence why ranged kills the elemental). This Slag Bomb also causes the Elementalist’s shield to drop for 15 seconds, giving you a window of opportunity for all of your DPS to switch and burn that Elementalist down.

If you don’t kill them during this debuff, the Damage Shield will come back up and you’ll have to waste another Slag Bomb to DPS them again. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. There’s the obvious matter of your healers running out of mana or your tanks simply getting overwhelmed by the continually spawning adds, but the bigger problem is Blast. This is a raidwide AoE throughout the entire fight that does a good chunk of damage to everyone, but not an unhealable amount. The problem is that he’ll be doing this more often the longer the fight goes on as his Heat level builds up. To minimize damage, you need to get to Phase 3 as quickly as possible. That means killing the Elementalists with as few Slag Bombs as possible and interrupting the Firecaller adds in Phase 2 when they’re casting Cauterize Wounds. If you can handle all of those new mechanics while still dealing with the Security Guards from Phase 1 and their Defense shields, then it’s on to the final phase of the fight.

Once the final Elementalist is slain, the Heart of the Mountain is now free and very, very angry. One of your tanks will run over and grab him while the rest of the raid deals with the remaining Security Guards and Firecallers from Phase 2; you won’t get any additional add spawns during this phase, but you still need to deal with what’s left. This last phase is heavy raid damage and constant movement. He’ll randomly target players with Melt, causing the ground beneath them to become molten and deal significant damage to any players still standing in it; your raid group will need to spread out to minimize movement for Melt and the tank will need to keep moving the boss whenever Melt spawns on top of the melee or the ranged/healers are running low on space to maneuver. The tanks themselves will be taking significant damage from the stacking Heat debuff, requiring tank swaps, cooldown usage and heavier tank healing.

On top of all of that, Blast is going off just as frequently as it was in Phase 2, doing constant raid damage, and those Melt puddles will start to spread over time, further reducing the available space to move. While the first phase of this fight is still the most complicated, this phase is going to be the most painful and it’s where you should be using Bloodlust to burn down the boss before your healers get overwhelmed or you run out of space to move. Once the Heart has been defeated, you’ll have dismantled the Blackrock clan’s claim to fame and removed the final obstacle between you and their warlord, Blackhand.

Warlord Blackhand: For Someone Trying to Save His Foundry, He Sure is Wrecking the Place

With the Blast Furnace destroyed and the Slagworks rendered inoperable, that leaves you with one more obstacle to face: Warlord Blackhand, leader of the Blackrock clan. You saw him during the opening questline in Tanaan Jungle and you faced off against him and lost during the Battle for Shattrath. Now it’s time to finish off the warlord and deal a crippling blow to the Iron Horde.

After making your way back to the entrance to the raid as well as fighting Forgemistress Flamehand in the hallway filled with Flame Jets on the wall, you’ll reach the elevator that takes you directly to Blackhand’s chambers. Blackhand himself is fairly similar to the endboss of Highmaul, Imperator Mar’gok. Most of the encounter is dealing with the same core boss mechanics, but you have to adjust how you deal with them depending on the phase. Rather than keeping the intermission design like Mar’gok, they did add some phase-specific mechanics to the encounter which I think make it a stronger fight overall, though still a very long one.

Let’s start with the core mechanics you’ll be seeing throughout the fight. Marked for Death will target players with a five-second debuff. At the end of the five seconds, he’ll fire an Impaling Throw at the target, dealing extremely high physical damage to the target and placing a DoT on them. In the first two phases, this throw can be intercepted, either by another player standing in the way or by an environmental obstacle (more on this later). Slag Bombs are essentially mines that get thrown on the ground and deal heavy fire damage to everyone in range when triggered, as well as causing them to take double damage for 15 seconds from the Slagged debuff. Finally whenever Blackhand reaches 100 Energy, he’ll target the current tank with Shattering Smash, dealing significant damage (split among all targets), knocking them back and stunning them for three seconds.

Those are the basics for his abilities, so let’s complicate matters by talking about the three phases. Phase 1 in the Cruicible starts off fairly simple. During this phase, the edges of the room will slowly begin to fill with Molten Slag, damaging anyone who steps on it (as well as applying the stacking Burned debuff); this is Phase 1’s soft enrage, meaning players need to push him below 70% health before they run out of room to move. As a tank you’ll be positioning Blackhand at the edge of the room near the Molten Slag and gradually moving him around the room, curving towards the center as the Slag encroaches further towards you. The Slag Bombs are the main reason you’ll be moving to avoid blowing up the tank and the melee. As for the Shattering Smash, whoever’s tanking the boss will take this hit by themselves and get sent flying into the Molten Slag (move out as soon as the stun wears off) while the offtank grabs the boss and tanks him until it’s his turn to soak a Shattering Smash.

Every 35 seconds Blackhand will use Demolition to bring chunks of the ceiling down on everyone’s head. The small brown swirls on the ground deal moderate damage and should be avoided, but it’s not the end of the world if a few players get hit. The orange swirls on the other hand will deal significant damage to anyone nearby and should be avoided at all cost. When those orange swirls go off, they’ll actually leave Debris Piles on the ground. Those piles are important for the other ability we mentioned before, Marked for Death. If you’re targeted with the Mark, you need to move so that a Debris Pile is between you and Blackhand; assuming no other player gets in the way and soaks the damage, the Debris Pile will take the full brunt of the Impaling Throw and you’ll emerge unscathed. Those Marked for Death will need to try and use the same Debris Pile whenever possible to ensure there's always one up for the next Impaling Throw. Keep this up until Blackhand is below 70% and it’s on to Phase 2.

With some raid fights, you might not tell immediately that the boss has changed phases until you look at the damage he’s doing or notice some new attack he’s thrown in. Blackhand makes this really obvious – when you get him below 70% for Phase 2, he drops an Exploding Iron Star from the ceiling onto the floor, not only dealing raidwide damage, but also completely destroying the floor you’re standing on and dropping the raid down a floor for the next phase in the Storage Warehouse. For this phase you no longer have to worry about the Molten Slag around the room’s edge, but now you have a few new problems to deal with. Blackhand no longer casts Demolition, which means there’s no Debris Piles to soak Impaling Throws. In their place Blackhand will periodically summon Siegemaker tanks which Fixate on whoever’s closest when they spawn until either the tank or the player dies. The Siegemaker will deal Battering Ram damage to whoever’s in front of it as well as firing Mortars at the raid, causing Blazes that damage players and apply Burning. The Fixated player will need to kite the tank around the room, dragging the Siegemaker over as many Slag Bombs as possible to reduce its Blackiron Plating buff. When players get Marked for Death, they’ll now use the Siegemaker in place of the Debris Piles, letting the tank soak the hit and further reducing its Blackiron Plating buff. Once that buff’s down, all DPS should switch and burn down the Siegemaker to keep the Blaze from filling the room as well as freeing up the kiting player for the next Siegemaker spawn.

The last unique part of Phase 2 comes from the balconies overlooking the room. Periodically Iron Soldiers will appear on either balcony, firing Explosive Rounds down at the raiders below, requiring you to spread out to avoid splash damage. They’re out of range for your DPS to attack normally, but there is another way to get up there: Shattering Smash. When Blackhand goes to use his Shattering Smash, the tank should angle the circle so his back is to one of the balconies (alternate for each Smash) and a handful of DPS (cleave or multi-DoT preferably) as well as a healer should soak the Smash with him. When the Smash goes off, that group will all get sent flying up to the balcony above where they can start burning down the Iron Soldiers. The longer you’re up top, you’ll get stacks of Incendiary Shot and you’ll have to head down to clear the stack, so try and burn down at least a couple Soldiers each then head down; if you’re the tank, you can usually get away with staying up longer and killing more with self-healing till it’s your turn to taunt the boss after he Shattering Smashes the other tank and the second balcony group.

Those Iron Soldiers will start showing up faster and faster the longer Phase 2 goes on. Combined with the Mortars and Blazes from the Siegemakers, these serve as Phase 2’s soft enrage. It’s a lot of adds and mechanics to deal with and you might be tempted to use your Bloodlust to push through to Phase 3. As tempting as that thought may be (and you might want to do it while learning just to get to Phase 3 attempts faster), Phase 2 isn’t the most painful part of the fight. The real fun comes when he hits 30% and smashes through the floor for Phase 3.

There’s no Exploding Iron Star when Phase 3 hits, but it’s just as dramatic of a transition. This time you’ve made Blackhand so angry that he’ll shatter the floor, sending everyone down to the Iron Crucible where you’ll be fighting on top of a large platform that’s Overheated, dealing unavoidable damage to everyone in the raid every second. In addition to that, now his abilities get even more painful. His Impaling Throw is now so strong that not only does it knock back whoever’s hit by it in addition to the damage, but it will also pass through anyone in the way, meaning that whoever’s the target not only needs to be close to avoid getting knocked off the edge but they need to make sure that no one is directly in front or behind them to minimize damage. There’s no more Debris Piles or Siegemakers here to soak the hit for you, so you’ll need to use whatever personal DR you’ve got or call out for healer cooldowns.

Instead of throwing Slag Bombs on the ground like the previous phases, now Blackhand will Attach Slag Bombs to two random players as well as the current tank. The offtank will grab Blackhand while the other tank and the other players with bombs run away from the group to drop their bombs. Once the bombs have been dropped, Slag Holes will appear at those spots, dealing fire damage to anyone within 30 yards, so those players that ran the bombs over need to run back as quickly as possible.

Finally there’s Blackhand’s other empowered ability, Massive Shattering Smash. Now instead of a single tank taking it like Phase 1 or a small group soaking it like Phase 2, you need to soak this with as many players as possible – basically everyone who isn’t affected by Slagged or has a Slag Bomb they need to drop. Besides cutting down on the amount of damage each individual player takes as well as the DoT damage, you need at least four targets for each Massive Shattering Smash or else Blackhand will instantly get 75 Energy back and you’ll get another Massive Shattering Smash far sooner than you would otherwise. There’s two other key details to this attack. The first is the knockback – it sends you flying! The tank needs to have positioned so Blackhand is around the outer edge of the platform and the raid needs to stack up such that everyone gets knocked back in the direction of more platform and not off the ledge. The other is the Slag Crater that’s formed after he uses Massive Shattering Smash. The Crater, as well as the Holes from the Slag Bombs, will cause Slag Eruptions and Huge Slag Eruptions shortly after each Massive Shattering Smash, so players need to move away.

Those Slag Eruptions go on for a while, causing you to have less and less room to maneuver the longer Phase 3 goes on. That’s why you need to save Bloodlust for this phase – the other two phases may have soft enrage mechanics, but Phase 3’s soft enrage is far more aggressive. Eventually you will run out of space that doesn’t have a Slag Eruption going off and your healers will be tapped out because there’s nowhere safe for the raid to stand. Mechanically, if you can handle the first two phases, you can handle this one. There may be some wipes involved in getting the Slag Bombs dropped in the right spots or making sure that everyone stacks correctly for the Massive Shattering Smash such that no one gets sent flying off the edge, but once your raid’s picked up those minor details, you’ll be able to take out the head of the Blackrock clan and move one step closer to stopping the threat of the Iron Horde.


After four columns talking about boss fights, we’ve finally reached the end of Blackrock Foundry. All in all it’s still one of my favorite raids in WoW. Other than Gruul, the fights are interesting to tank and the lore for the dungeon felt far more engaging than going into Highmaul and playing with the Ogres. I’m curious where they’ll be going from here with Warlord’s next raid. We still have Grommash Hellscream to deal with, but there’s also Gul’dan lurking in the shadows.

Blizzard had hinted that Warlords may only have two raid tiers before the next expansion comes out since they want to release expansions faster, but this first raid tier did encompass two separate raids with 17 bosses between them. We could see both Grommash and Gul’dan as end bosses in their own raids, though I’m not entirely convinced. The way they’ve been building up Gul’dan in the legendary ring storyline (I won’t spoil things for anyone by bringing up specific details), my gut feeling is that they’re planning to use him as a connection to the next expansion. It’s been a long time since Azeroth has really squared off against the full force of the Burning Legion and who better to serve as a link to an expansion built around them than the orc responsible for bringing them to Draenor in our timeline?

That’s it for this edition of Formerly Hardcore. We’ve finished up our delve into Blackrock Foundry, so next week we’ll shift over to something non-raid related, probably either Garrisons or pet battling. If you have any other topics you’d like us to talk about, please let us know in the comments below.

Michael “Ragar” Branham


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