On Monday Rebound killed Nefarian and Al’Akir, taking us to 12/12 on normal modes, earning the guild achievement Glory of the Cataclysm Raider and unlocking the Dark Phoenix mounts (which also earned a few cheers from the mount collectors in the guild) and most people got their Defender of a Shattered World title. I was one of the few that missed out, as for some reason my random heroic has never been Throne of the Tides, a fact I almost immediately remedied post-raid. We ended up pugging two of the five for the final instance run, and I have no idea what they must have thought when I got the achievement for the heroic and the Defender of a Shattered World title at the end! Anyway, here are a few tips for the Nefarian fight.
The first issue to discuss is the skeletons that appear in both phase 1 and phase 3. As a feral druid, it is highly likely you will be asked to tank them in phase 1, and I use the word tank for a reason. After several hours of reading up on tactics, actual attempts and subsequent research over the past couple of days, one of the few things I remain convinced about regarding the adds is that tanking them is the most beneficial way to deal with them in the first phase. If done well, it should allow you to control where the adds fall when they run out of energy which should have a knock-on effect of making phase 3 easier.
Over the past month, Jacemora, Alaron, Reesi and Kalon have all highlighted their feral hybrid builds, allowing them to seamlessly switch between tanking and DPS. They have used them for slightly varying bosses, but as Kalon pointed out, the build is good when you don’t have to tank all the time as it will allow you to push respectable DPS. Not having to tank all the time but needing to do high DPS is exactly what I would expect a feral druid to be doing on Nefarian. Read their articles and use their suggestions.
If you do manage to escape the tanking duties, and with our raid setup we had a fury warrior with a lot of experience as a tank in the raid so he kited/tanked the adds in phase 1, feral can really shine throughout the Nefarian fight. In phase 1 you can easily spend long enough on either or both dragons to negate your long ramp-up time and deal some very respectable damage. As with all dragons, positioning is vital in order to maintain your ability to use Shred. Due to the large hit-box on Onyxia and Nefarian it is possible to use Feral Charge throughout the fight without having to run out too far. Incoming damage is limited to however many crackles your raid pushes in phase 1, so you should have Barkskin available for each of them and not need too much more attention from healers unless you are dealing with the adds.
Phase 2 is a lot simpler from a melee DPS perspective. In phase 2, try and argue to be put on a platform with a tank and position yourself behind the add in order to still be able to use Shred. Regardless of where you end up, your most important priority in phase 2 is to have Skull Bash available every time Blast Nova is cast. Try to pool your energy appropriately. It is good practise for heroic Nefarian (should your guild be in a position to attempt that at any time soon) to adjust your damage to keep your add level with the health of the other two, but it is not strictly necessary in normal difficulty. When the add on your platform is dead, if you have time before the next phase begins, consider using Barkskin, bandages, your limited healing spells or even bear form and enraged regeneration in order to reduce the damage to yourself and ease the burden on your healers as much as possible.
Phase 3 is even simpler. While I argue that phase 3 is mostly a control phase and my guild master argues it is a DPS race, I certainly do not advocate hanging around! Control your DPS as instructed in order to time crackles when the raid is ready for them – with Rip and Rake this is more difficult than some other classes but still entirely possible. As in phase 1, positioning is important to get the maximum use from Feral Charge and Shred. The vast majority of your crackles should come in phase 3, and I heartily recommend grinding the reputation and tokens with your Tol Barad faction to purchase the Mirror of Broken Images, which makes the crackles far less deadly. The huge chunk of mastery on it is fairly useful anyway, but the damage reduction from the crackles can make a huge difference on progression fights, and again, if you are likely to be working on heroic Nefarian any time soon, the Mirror is very useful there.
If you are currently working on Nefarian, good luck!