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High DPS Tanking – Halfus Wyrmbreaker

June 13, 2011

"Don't kill the Orphans!"

Halfus is a strange fight for pushing DPS numbers. It’s fairly easy as Heroic modes go, but doing great DPS on it actually requires some serious analysis. Doing well on this fight is all about understanding not only how to release the adds, but also how to position yourself in a role that will allow you to excel at DPS. You will find that people often use the wrong abilities on this fight because they don’t properly understand what the crossover point is as far as AOE vs. single target, nor do they necessarily understand the right strategy to maximize DPS for a kill.

Perversely, as a tank you can also do more DPS if your raid’s DPS is low. As an example, my baby bear tank Kihrawr, despite having not a single 372 item, managed to get a 12th place ranking on our alt run’s first Heroic Halfus kill. I did shamelessly position myself in a role that would not only maximize raid DPS, but I also benefited from the low AOE done by this alt run raid. (More on that later.)

Getting to Know You

The adds can be divided up into three categories:

(1) The drakes. These include the Time Warden, Nether Scion, Storm Rider and Slate Dragon.
(2) Orphaned Emerald Whelps.
(3) Halfus Wyrmbreaker

For maximizing Vengeance, the drakes and whelps make the best initial tanking targets. Ideally you should be tanking the whelps and a drake or two while being positioned such that you can hit everything that you’ve released. The whelps and drakes are level 87, so you only need 6% Hit and 22 Expertise on this fight for your attacks to always land. However I recommend having at least 8% Hit and 26 Expertise so that you won’t miss Halfus when you attack him from behind.

The bulk of your damage will come from AOE, so you should glyph Hammer of the Righteous and unglyph Focused Shield.

The Pull

So what should be released on the pull? It’s very important that you are tanking enough targets for good Vengeance, and you also want to get the whelps out so that your Hammer is hitting tons of targets. Ideally you are releasing the whelps yourself while having a drake misdirected to you. That way you get in good hits on the whelps from the start, and then you can bring the whelps and your drake on top of Halfus. It makes little difference whether or not you hold one drake back at the start. The difference in DPS on your Hammer is negligible while you’re still hitting the whelps, drakes and Halfus, but you should release the last drake by the time anything else dies.

Not the Puppy Orphanage!

"Hi there. We'll be your DPS boost for the evening."

How well you do on this fight will be primarily determined by how long you leave whelps alive. For example if you let the whelps out and then tank them the entire fight without DPS touching them much at all, then you’re going to do very good DPS. The problem is your DPS want to set records as well.

The best way to handle this situation is to pick a couple of people that the raid is going to “boost” to a good parse. Have everyone else leave the whelps alone but allow those people to DPS the whelps. This way the whelps will die very slowly, and you get to reap the benefits of your Hammer of the Righteous hitting lots of targets for a higher percentage of the fight. Have the rest of your raid focus single-mindedly on burning down the drakes one by one.

He Had It Coming

Every time a drake dies, the damage Halfus takes increases by 100%. This damage increase is additive for each drake that dies, so he’s taking between 2x and 6x damage, depending on how many drakes and whelps have been killed. As with previous posts, I like to think in terms of a theoretical number of targets that I’m hitting with my Hammer of the Righteous when comparing its value relative to our other abilities. For damage debuffs, I just pretend like the Hammer is hitting more targets. Thinking in these terms makes the math relatively straightforward and can enable you to understand the right decision to make regarding Hammer vs. Crusader Strike (or for Shield of the Righteous weaving).

At the beginning of the fight Halfus is on equal footing with the whelps and the drakes. At some point, a drake is going to die, and Halfus’ relative value as a target is going to increase. The minute a drake dies, Halfus should become your primary target. You want to make absolutely sure that you have Censure going at double damage on him, and you also want to make sure he is always one of the three targets hit by your Avenger’s Shield.

Remember that the relative value of Halfus goes up each time a drake dies.

Dropping the Hammer

As drakes and whelps die off, you’ll hit a crossover point where a Crusader Strike on Halfus is better than Hammer of the Righteous on everything else. Ideally this point is delayed until nearly the end of the fight because the whelps are kept alive for a long time, but assuming your raid decides to annihilate the whelps, it’s important to understand where your crossover point is for DPS.

For the purposes of comparing Crusader Strike to Hammer, the relative damage of both on a single target at high Vengeance is about 18k and 3k+9k respectively. We can assume that the primary hit of Hammer will be on Halfus along with one nova splash, and so that portion will fully benefit from any damage debuffs applied to him. The question then becomes how much the additional nova splashes are worth. Since each one will be worth about 9k, we can quickly see that a Crusader Strike is roughly equivalent to a Hammer of 1.66 targets. (For the purposes of this comparison, I’m treating the PvP gloves and the fact that the CS is unglyphed as a wash.)

So let’s imagine that the whelps are dead, and so now we have a tough choice to make. There are four drakes up along with Halfus. A Hammer is now going to hit the equivalent of 4 + 1 * 2 = 6 targets. A Crusader Strike is equivalent to hitting 1.66 * 2 = 3.32 targets. Therefore it’s still the correct decision to use Hammer.

Let’s kill our first drake along with the whelps. Now a Hammer is going to hit the equivalent of 3 + 1 * 3 = 6 targets. A Crusader Strike is equivalent to hitting 1.66 * 3 = 4.98 targets. Hammer is still the better choice.

As you can see, the value of Hammer remains unchanged as drakes die, since that damage is just shifted to Halfus, but the relative value of Crusader Strike continues to increase.

Once two drakes plus the whelps have died, it’s no contest. A Hammer still hits the equivalent of 2 + 1*4 = 6 targets, but a Crusader Strike hits 1.66 * 4 = 6.64 targets. As you can see, once the whelps and two drakes have died, you should not continue to Hammer the remaining two drakes. Just hit Halfus. You’re only losing DPS if you continue to Hammer those other drakes.

If you Love Something, Set it Free

Another question worth asking is whether or not you need to free everything for maximum DPS. Obviously when the whelps are out, the value in having one extra drake target is minimal. Therefore whether or not you free everything on the pull doesn’t matter that much as long as the whelps are released.

If we release only three drakes instead of four, then when the whelps die, a Hammer is going to be worth 5 targets to a Crusader Strike’s 3.32. We’ll be operating at a 1-target deficiency until the first drake dies. This should obviously happen very quickly though, so it doesn’t matter too much. Once that first drake dies, then you’re down to two drakes plus Halfus, and he’s taking triple damage. The Hammer will be worth 5 targets to the Crusader Strike’s 4.98. Very close! The crossover point won’t happen until only one drake is left though.

What happens if we only release two drakes plus the whelps? Then when the whelps die, we’ll have only two drakes remaining, and Hammer will be worth 4 targets, but Crusader Strike will be worth 3.32. As you can see in this case, the crossover point in this case will be when one drake is left also. However the damage on Halfus will be so low in this case that your sustained DPS on him won’t match what you could do if you let out more drakes.

We’ve established therefore that the highest possible DPS will be done if we let out everything on the pull, although as long as whelps are up, whether or not you free one extra drake will make only a marginal difference in DPS.

Let’s suppose that you do manage to talk your raid leader into boosting certain individuals (including yourself), and the whelps do end up staying alive as drakes start dying. Is there a point where dropping Hammer is worth it, even with all the whelps up? There are eight whelps, and so doing the math you can see that 8 + 1*5 = 13 and 1.66*5 = 8.3. Therefore as long as all the whelps are kicking, it’s always worth it to Hammer.

So should we ever kill the whelps? 8 + 1*5 = 13 targets, but 1.66*6 = 9.96. The answer is “No!” Even factoring in the gains to Shield of the Righteous, Censure and Melee, they’re more than made up for by the huge increase you get from Hammer instead of CS and from Avenger’s Shield continuing to hit three targets.

Burn It Down

Now that we have a proper understanding of whelps and drakes, we need to analyze what the raid itself should do. We already know what our right personal move is as far as when to switch to Halfus, but if everyone in the raid did that, you would lose the opportunity to do even more DPS to Halfus.

For example, let’s imagine that the whelps do die first, and then you kill two drakes. Now Halfus is taking 4x damage, and for almost any spec, switching to him will be more DPS than doing AOE on two drakes plus Halfus. If all your DPS switch though, then what you get is a final burn phase of 4x DPS.

If you follow the “boosting” strategy, though, what you can do is allow a certain number of DPS to switch to Halfus early, but keep most of the raid focused on burning down the remaining drakes. Then you have a certain set of people enjoying 4x DPS on Halfus, followed by 5x DPS on Halfus, and then finally the entire raid gets to enjoy 6x DPS on Halfus.

As you can see, the individual that switches early doesn’t suffer at all for their choice. They either do a minimum of 4x DPS all the way to the kill if everyone is bad and switches, or they get to enjoy some periods of 5x or even 6x damage. The maximum DPS choice is obvious.

Stay Angry

If you are tanking the whelps and another drake, eventually your drake will die. Ideally the whelps are still hitting you for decent Vengeance, but you’ll want to monitor your Vengeance and get more if needed. Taunt another drake from a co-tank if you see your Vengeance slipping. Try to always have at least one drake on you all the way to the point where the Halfus burn starts.

You can also stand in fire. 🙂

Once all the drakes are dead, take over on Halfus and tank him until the end of the fight. That way you’ll keep Vengeance for the brief final burn at 6x.


As you can see, this fight has a lot of interesting depth to it as far as personal DPS, but you have to play pretty selfishly in order to really reap the benefits. It may be that people are amenable to rotating between different DPS and tanks and boosting them for parses, but more likely your trigger-happy DPS will just wreck everything too quickly. Still, for anyone who wants to have fun trying it, here you go. 🙂

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