My Experience with Vengeance and Gul’dan

For the most part in this expansion, I’ve been able to use my monk and dh interchangeably. Sure, there have been some situations where one was a bit stronger than the other, but I could cover those weaknesses with some adjustments in strategy or toolkit and it worked out fine. But when we hit heroic Gul’dan this week, that was the first time I ever swapped out one character for the other for progression.

I’ve historically been more comfortable on my brewmaster. That’s why I’m going to couch all my thoughts in this post with issues I’m having on my vengeance dh, and not necessarily issues everyone is having (though in talking with other people, I know I’m not alone). I just wanted to write about them, since I already talked about them on the latest episode of Tankcast.

So the first issue I had on Gul’dan was solo-soaking the Bonds of Fel. The way my guild has been handling tank bonds was a) using the extra action button when it was available, then b) using our personal mitigation to handle it otherwise. My cotank handles it with Mark of Ursol and a big ol’ Frenzied Regen after. On my monk, I handle it with a Mystic Vitality-buffed Ironskin Brew with a big ol’ Expel Harm after. On my Demon Hunter, in theory I could use Empower Wards and/or Soul Barrier, but wouldn’t be able to heal it back up until I got back in range for Soul Cleave. And in practice, I needed Empower Wards and Soul Barrier to handle the other mechanics (which I’ll talk about soon).

The solution was to have my cotank handle any of the bonds I couldn’t cover with the extra action button. It’s not a solution that makes me feel great, but it works and it wasn’t a detriment to our progression.

But the real challenge came from all the burst damage and Fel Scythe. Handled properly, as in we only trigger Fel Scythe and Fury of the Fel when us tanks are ready, I could usually cover Fel Scythe’s magic damage with Empower Wards or Soul Barrier plus Painbringer, and Demon Spikes handles Fury of the Fel just fine. There were some scary points that I had to work hard to recover from, just with my health dropping from all the extra melee hits, but overall it was manageable, if difficult.

But add in just about any mistake, like melee killing the eyeball adds and stepping a little too close to the boss, or me losing track of my cotank and not realizing he was coming in to trigger Fel Scythe, or both of us tanks forgetting to trigger Fel Scythe until it was at very high energy, or being unable to top myself off before the Fel Sythe, and I would go down.

I considered talenting in to Last Resort to cover my unpredictable deaths, but I would have to lose Soul Barrier for that, and I needed Soul Barrier to handle the magical damage. I feared that with Last Resort I’d only trigger it early on something Soul Barrier could have handled, only to die on the next unexpected burst.

If everyone was playing really well, including myself, I could have stuck to my DH. But we can’t depend on that, especially on a new fight, so I swapped to my monk.

And this whole fight was vastly easier on my monk! The frequently-usable magic damage mitigation built into Ironskin Brew+Mystic Vitality greatly reduced Bonds of Fel damage, and the ranged healing of Expel Harm was excellent for recovery. Burst damage from Fel Scythe and Fury of the Fel never concerned me, because stagger will save me, even if I make a mistake. The high uptime on Ironskin Brew covered all the unexpected Fel Scythe damage.

Clearly Gul’dan caters to Brewmasters’ strengths, while revealing Vengeance weaknesses. Burst damage, frequent magic damage, ranged damage management, all these are areas monks excel at handling and demon hunters struggle with. Normally I power through just fine after adjusting talents and rotations, but here my stubbornness was a detriment to my raid.

I have no doubt that this fight is doable by Vengeance. However, it takes much tighter play to do it, tighter than I’ve seen before in other encounters at a similar level, and tighter than the play required by druids and monks (and those are just the tanks my raid has used on this fight). There are some adjustments we could have made that would have helped me succeed as a DH (like having the other tank handle the less predictable boss damage, and me handle the more predictable Bonds of Fel), but with switching to monk we never were forced to do that.

On my monk, I don’t have to monitor stacks of an artifact trait to survive a fight on heroic. Brewmasters can micro-manage such things, but they are not required for success on this difficulty (and they are notably easier to manage). On my monk, I can do something as terrible as forgetting to put up AM, and I have tools to recover. On my monk, when my raid significantly misunderstand mechanics, I have the tools to compensate. With enough practice, all of these monk advantages become less important because failure on all fronts is less likely. But in a situation like this, which is a perfect storm of vengeance weaknesses combined with seeing the fight for the first time, and it made more sense to sub out the demon hunter.

  • Drew Miller

    Would it possibly be better when you’re actively tanking him as Vengeance to trigger more low-power scythes and shrug off the more frequent hits with your pretty high DS uptime?

    • Sunnier

      That was our strat in theory, but I still needed my magic cds to smooth out that big string of hits, and since we were still learning it rarely worked out as we planned. It’s one of those things where the problems would be eliminated once me and my raid understands the timing of everything better, but in learning it vengeance is less reliably survivable than brewmaster.

      • Morag

        My co-tank and I (warrior/paladin) found a handy little weak aura ( to manage Fel Scythe energy. We were getting wrecked initially due to screwing it up and forgetting to trigger it on time, but it’s pretty manageable damage when you’re triggering as soon as his buff falls off. It is pretty lame that VDHs don’t really have good tools to deal with the damage patterns in this fight, though, especially when it’s almost trivial for some of the other tank classes. Our warrior does tend to take pretty heavy damage from Fel Scythe, but I think overall he doesn’t have too much trouble dealing with it.

        We do take advantage of my utility, however, since I can cast Spellwarding on him for any of the empowered bonds he can’t handle with his action button which allows him to use his cooldowns freely for Fel Scythe.

  • x zhou

    I think the best way is to have an on use trinket that absorbs or dmg reduction + empower ward for soloing bonds of fel and scythes. On my DH tank I currently have 2 on use trinkets but I perfer one on use and one proc trinket. A 890 ilvl absorb trinket can absorb alot dmg great for when boss burst on u. Yes both DK and DH tanks have thsi problem that you have to hit something in order to heal urself lol. But if u can pop a big absorb soul barrier + trinket, then u don’t really take a whole lot of dmg.

  • Asphodel

    Hi Sunnier, love your quick tanking guides, thank you so much for making them! I main a vengeance DH and after reading this post I was wondering: Did you consider using Fiery Brand to break the bonds? In my experience this seems to work, and a quick search on mmo-champ shows other vengeance DH’s also using Brand + Empower Wards + Soul Barrier.

  • Quasi

    I admit to being sad on many of the fights in NH(just normal mode clear and first 3 bosses on heroic). My co-tank is a druid, and while I know I can improve in many places I don’t see a huge difference in my skill level vs his. The basic difference in the classes just make so many fights harder for me than him though.

    That said Gul’dan has not been too bad as venge. Partly i got lucky in early drops of trinkets. Getting both royal dagger haft and animated exoskeleton gave me a lot of extra mitigation options for fel bonds. Between those and empower Ward’s I can usually save my boss button until empowered bonds hits and then just pop that and hop out. The fel scythe never feels good though.

    One thing that’s been bugging me recently is my damage output, are you seeing much of a difference between your monk and your DH? It’s something I’m looking to improve myself. Most of my focus in raids has historically been just to survive.

    • Sunnier

      Yeah now that I’ve done it on my DH, it’s definitely doable, just requires better play than on my monk. The end result ends up being similar, once everyone knows what they’re doing. It’s just that monk is so much better before my raid got to that point.

      As for dps, my monk typically does more these days, but she’s got the Symbiote legendary, which isn’t great for monks, but better than no dps legendaries. My DH has better control over her dps though, with Fiery Brand and Fracture, so she does better when dps has to be done within a window. I’m honestly terrible at dps on both, and that’s the big thing I’ve been trying to improve lately.

  • Agostinho Serrano

    I’d like to comment on your NH guide as Vengeance. There’s a lot of figths (if not all) where Soul Barrier is – allow me to say – bearing overpowered. You don’t mention on your NH Tanking Guide/Notes that for Spellblade its incredible. I just tanked it in Heroic with a fellow VDH that wasn’t specced on it and I got almost half the damage, half the healing taken and did 51% of my healing (while he did 33%), surviving 4 stacks of annihilate timing Soul Carver+SB before each annihilate (that has exactly the same CD as soul carver btw). I bet there’s room for SB for each figth if not for add duty.

    • Sunnier

      I think I’m still a little hesitant to admit how much I depend on Soul Barrier (i.e. always) because before 7.1.5 I still used it all the time and people did not react positively when I sung its praises. That’s probably an overreaction on my part, since clearly it’s very popular now, and I do love Soul Barrier very much.