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Mythic+ Boss Breakdown - The Difficulty of Xav the Unfallen in Theater of Pain
11/04/2021 à 21:40
As part of the Mythic+ boss breakdown, this week we're looking at
. You have no doubt heard stories about this guy on
- and, to be fair, the entirety of
Théâtre de la Souffrance
to go with it, as the dungeon has a very unforgiving timer even on Fortified and happens to be the only instance in Shadowlands to have five bosses.
Xav the Unfallen Mechanics Review
is a relatively simple fight, at least mechanically. Deep down, it revolves around three core spells:
30 seconds into the pull, and every minute thereafter, Xav picks two targets as part of
Sang et gloire
and sends them downstairs. For ~2s, they are disabled while being healed to full and transported to the central arena, where they get to come to blows. Every second, anybody downstairs takes 3% extra damage thanks to
. When they come back up, they are once again disabled for ~2s, healed to full, and transported back to the arena. The winner gets a 10% damage increase, while the loser gets a 10% damage reduction. Neither of those shows up in logs, making it very difficult to find out who won.
10 seconds into the pull, and every 30-35s after, Xav creates an
. This creates the banner we all know and despise. The second it is created, and every 3 seconds after, anybody upstairs loses 15% movement speed, stacking up to 5.
Finally, 15 seconds into the pull and every 35-40s after, Xav casts
Puissance de Maldraxxus
and subsequently casts three of the following abilities, at random:
picks a player and casts a 180-degree cleave aimed at them
picks a player and casts a ~6yd wide line blast aimed at them
casts a circular AoE centered on Xav (while he is in the middle of the area), covering ~2/3 of the encounter area. Anybody caught in it takes a hefty amount of damage and is knocked back; everybody else is interrupted irrespective of their position.
It is worth noting that there are no exclusions on abilities. The most common outcome is all three abilities in a random order, and
This set of mechanics creates a set of overlaps that are largely determined; you can delay some of them (and get some really frustrating offsets) by pulling Xav from max range, but outside of that, there is no real cast sequence randomness outside of the combo. There are basically two "cycles": a short one, where you have 10s from the time the banner is dropped to the time the combo starts, and a long one, during which you will have a duel, and 15-16s from the time the banner is dropped to the combo.
The fight alternates between those cycles until you die, or Xav dies.
Problems with Xav the Unfallen
Compounding on the very low time to kill on the banner, it has a
of health. Fortunately for us, much like most other adds in keys this expansion, the banner is not affected by either Tyrannical or Fortified, starting on 40 050 on a +2. This results in a necessary
3.6k party DPS
on a short cycle, and
2.5k party DPS
on a long cycle to break the banner before the combo starts.
This amount of health very quickly spirals out of control, reaching in the 150k range (13.4k DPS on short cycle, 9.2k DPS on long cycle) at +19, and 200k (18.3k DPS on short cycle, 12.6k on long cycle) in +23, due to the exponential nature of key scaling. And, as expected, the higher the key level, the harder it is to kill banners before the combo.
To compare, a shattered visage from Mueh'zala has 46k HP, and gives you 25 seconds to kill; in other words, just under double the duration, although in the case of mueh'zala, it is a solo effort. On +19, the visages have 170k HP, requiring ~6.8k DPS sustained over 25 seconds. This is a relatively trivial amount of damage considering that you save
all your cooldowns
, potions, and other tricks to meet this, and that you only need to do this
, instead of every 30 to 35s on Xav. To top it all off, it is damage that you do not get back in any way.
It gets to the point that it becomes virtually impossible to kill the banners in time.
and his team showcased it a while back. You can watch the full boss fight by
or watch a clip below.
Thanks to this, on decently high keys, this fight favors specs with abilities to reset movement reduction debuffs. Paladins can help others with
Bénédiction de liberté
, all Death Knights are essentially immune to the mechanic thanks to
Avancée de la mort
, and a few others. For the specs that are not so fortunate, it is still possible to survive combos with a bit of clever positioning:
Do not be in the middle (as it puts you in a very precarious position for
Be as far as your movement abilities allow it from the center so that you are able to get behind the hemispheric cleave should it happen to target you.
The ideal spot is around halfway to the wall from the middle for most specs - some have it easier than others (Night Fae, Hunters, Mages, Rogues, Demon Hunters and a few others), while some specs are left in the dust. Similarly, some specs also have it easier dealing with back-to-back
Banner + Duel Overlap
To make matters worse, on the long cycle, the banner is active for a lot longer than on the short one; this is, possibly, to compensate for the fact that two DPS are going at each other downstairs for a portion of this. However, due to what is effectively an animation lock going into the arena and out of the arena, this time is effectively "lost" - the 5s extra on the overlap are almost completely wasted on the animation of getting picked (immobilized + stunned + thrown into the arena) and coming back up ("winning"/"losing" and getting thrown back into the fight), totaling 2s each way.
As a result, you end up in a very precarious double whammy: one DPS
has to do a large amount of the banner's health in damage while the two others are duking it out downstairs, and the tank, the healer and this DPS will be facing a combo where they will be slowed by
, with little to no counterplay due to two DPS being missing from most of the burn phase.
The two DPS sent downstairs, meanwhile, have a difficult choice to make:
If neither of the contenders has a particularly noteworthy cooldown, the incentive is to finish the duel as quickly as possible, irrespective of who wins. As such, it may make sense to let specs able to quickly and efficiently kill their opponent win. Similarly, removing absorbs and sitting down (guaranteed crit for the opponent's autos!) also speeds things up.
If, however, one of them has a
cooldown available, it may make sense to have their opponent "throw" the duel in order to get back upstairs as fast as possible while guaranteeing that the person with the cooldown has a 10% bonus on it.
On the face of it, and knowing all this, the first option is preferable, as every second spent downstairs is a second not spent on the banner (if you intend on killing it). As a result, it makes sense to pull
every trick in the book
to get back up as quickly as possible.
On top of this, some specs having unremovable, impossible-to-counter self-healing from their spec, their conduits or their talents (such as druids with
), quickly turns a swift kill into a long, drawn-out battle. This is also magnified in pugs with no communication, as you'll often see two people attempt to achieve victory at all costs simultaneously.
As you might expect, any way to expedite this would be extremely good for this boss. It is such a shame that
« Nitro carburant » de Sifflepince
was used for exactly this purpose in Warlords and changed to not light up while in combat; there may be other items able to deal friendly fire damage to speed up this duel.
Xav also happens to be an extremely drawn-out fight even on
, and the buff to his health, do nothing but exacerbate the problem, and because this is a key with
bosses, the timer gets even tighter as a result.
While it is not quite as bad as
, the combination of extreme boss HP and boss count turns the timer into an actual race. To give an order of magnitude, every boss in
Théâtre de la Souffrance
is in the 3-4min range on +23; most bosses in the same key level of Halls, Mists, or any of the more user-friendly keys on tyrannical weeks barely break the 2:30 mark. With five bosses, this means that more than half of the key timer is spent fighting bosses, and the other four are most
Key leaderboards speak for themselves as to the popularity and ease of completion on
, with completion levels being 3 levels higher on
than on tyrannical (aside from three +23 tyrannical Theater of Pains, done in the last good tyrannical reset by
's group and two APAC teams). It isn't quite the level disparity of De Other Side, but it is getting
close to it when it comes to high keys.
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