Approaching Hard Mode ICC25, A Road Map

To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some may say that non-linearity is the true way to create interesting content. It provides choices and perhaps a different way of doing things. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe you get to choose a different path through the instance when farming the content, but that is quite inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

What Raid Leaders want, and look for, is the best path through an instance. If they don’t know what to choose, the choice will quickly be made for them. Let’s take a look at the “First Four” bosses of the original Naxx:

  1. Anub’rekhan
  2. Noth the Plaguebringer
  3. Instructor Razuvious
  4. Patchwerk

One of these things is not like the other.

Even if an ambitious raid leader wanted to tackle Patchwerk first, he simply could not. What he will fall back on is either experimentation (if he’s one of the first in), or the experiences of guilds that came before him. In the case of Icecrown Citadel Hard Modes, the latter is where most of us fall.  Plotting out a course of action based on the science of guilds that have already tried (and failed, in some cases) is the best way to create an effective map of hard mode progression.

Before getting to the actual target kill order let’s set up a few parameters.

1. Number of Kills

This is the first and strongest statistic to examine. Just how many guilds have killed these bosses worldwide? There are many, many guilds just like yours at whatever point in progression you happen to be currentlly. If a boss was easy for them, then it is likely that it will also be easy for you. Similarly, if you find a boss easy to kill there are likely thousands of guilds out there killing the same boss. A quick ranking of hard mode bosses based on number of kills (wowprogress):

  1. Gunship Battle (1172)
  2. Lord Marrowgar (1166)
  3. Rotface (994)
  4. Blood Prince Council (839)
  5. Blood-Queen Lana’thel (657)
  6. Valithria Dreamwalker (638)
  7. Deathbringer Saurfang (612)
  8. Festergut (571)
  9. Lady Deathwhisper (377)
  10. Sindragosa (157)
  11. Professor Putricide (100)
  12. The Lich King (0)

That right there is a solid kill order in itself. There have been enough guilds taking on Hard Modes that you get a very clear picture about what bosses are difficult. However, there are some other things to consider.

2. Placement

No one in their right mind is going to argue that any boss is harder than Gunship. I’m fairly certain Felmyst is still harder than Gunship Battle. The only thing to consider here is that it is the third boss in the instance. Marrowgar may be considered more difficult, but there’s no reason to skip over him just to get to Gunship. If you’ve killed the Lich King (you have), you will have no problems with Lord Marrowgar (H).

After the first 4 bosses the next factor in regards to placement is trash. There’s little trash (Blood Princes), productive trash (Valithria), and long trash (Rotface/Festergut). Taking that  into consideration we could re-order the list like this:

  1. Lord Marrowgar (1166)
  2. Gunship Battle (1172)
  3. Deathbringer Saurfang (612)
  4. Rotface (994)
  5. Valithria Dreamwalker (638)
  6. Blood Prince Council (839)
  7. Blood-Queen Lana’thel (657)
  8. Festergut (571)
  9. Lady Deathwhisper (377)
  10. Sindragosa (157)
  11. Professor Putricide (100)
  12. The Lich King (0)

Falling into the trap of taking on Saurfang your first week is an expected result if you ignore the fact that he gates the interior to the instance where at least 4 easier bosses reside. From a morale point of view, you want to knock off as many bosses as you can. Success breeds success as a smart man once said. Once you get into the interior of Icecrown Citadel how do you choose where to go next?

3. New Mechanics vs. Raid Strengths

The three bosses you have to choose from, Rotface, Blood Princes, and Valithria are all about equal difficulty-wise in my opinion but offer 3 unique challenges to your raid. Blood Princes is a complete coordination check, handle the balls. Rotface is all about DPS, kill him before your raid goes nuts and kills you because of all the infections. Dreamwalker is won strictly on the back of your healing team. Those silly DPS outside don’t get to have any fun for once…or maybe they do, I wouldn’t know.

Pick what best suits your raid, but for my crew I chose the path of Rotface-Princes-Blood Queen-Dreamwalker. Blood Queen is a simple benchmark fight. For a guild that has recently killed Lich King, your DPS must be strong enough to beat this encounter. It’s a good measuring stick and a challenge your DPS should welcome. Also, she drops a 277 tier 10 token, and everyone loves those (even if it is just one).

The final order:

  1. Lord Marrowgar
  2. Gunship Battle
  3. Rotface
  4. Blood Prince Council
  5. Blood Queen Lana’thel
  6. Valithria Dreamwalker
  7. Lady Deathwhisper
  8. Festergut (9)
  9. Deathbringer Saurfang (8)
  10. Sindragosa
  11. Putricide
  12. Lich Guy


The last thing you want to take into consideration is how much time you have in your raid week. Repeating kills and clearing the instance is still important to keep the gear coming in to help your progress in future weeks. Whether or not you go for Saurfang or skip over him to Festergut depends on your composition. Festergut benefits from strong DPS and aoe healing while Saurfang is a Paladin’s (of every spec) wet dream.

I’m moving Deathwhisper up because it’s so close to the front of the instance for it’s difficulty level. You’ll end up skipping over it forever when you already know that she’s a boss you’ll have to get to eventually. The only thing that will help you is the next stack of Strength of Wrynn.

In hindsight I might have liked to go for Dreamwalker a little earlier since it ended up being one of the easiest to complete out of our first 6, but it was a nice treat after taking on Blood Queen.

My last comment is only to say this: don’t try to be a hero.

Those numbers above don’t lie and despite what you hear from top guilds, the hard modes will challenge your guild (in a good way!). Take out some of the easier ones first then come back around for the more challenging bosses the next week. The Lich King is waiting to see you on heroic.

2 Responses to Approaching Hard Mode ICC25, A Road Map

  1. Blacksen says:

    Imperative used the # of kills to determine what we were going after first. Our first week has yielded Marrowgar, Gunship, and Rotface dead (in that order). Next week, we’ll probably be taking on BPC, BQL, and Dreamwalker (lag permitting).

    Elistjerks did an interesting summary on success percentage, which I’ve found to be extremely helpful:
    Gunship (unknown)
    Marrowgar 28.8
    Rotface 20.3
    Blood Council 17.1
    Dreamwalker 15.5
    Blood Queen 10.2
    Sindragosa 8.2
    Festergut 5.4
    Saurfang 4.5
    Lady Deathwhisper 2.6
    Professor 2.1
    Lich King 0

    If anything, this indicated to us what bosses were easily farmable and which bosses took several attempts to complete. Part of the reason I don’t want to touch Saurfang is that it looks like BQL and Sindragosa are easier on heroic than Saurfang himself.

    One last interesting thing to note:
    Look at the 10man heroic. 11.1% win percentage. It seems pretty extraordinary to me the hidden beliefs behind that fight. We went and tried a few 10man attempts ourselves and had our best one be a 2% wipe. The fight is extremely easy on heroic, and yet it has this stigma of “omg hardest heroic in ICC,” even in the 10man.

  2. borsk says:

    I would certainly agree about Putricide. Our 10 man was playing…somewhat poorly last Sunday, but still got him to phase 3 after only a couple pulls (unbound plague, argh).

    Saurfang might be the touchiest of the hard modes not named Putricide. Fights that position sensitive are always white knuckle.

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