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Shadow Imp Lord

The Athyr-Bast encounter in Wing 3 of the Black Ring Citadel contains a few elements that must have either been placed there to deliberately misdirect the attention of players as they were first figuring out the tactics for the fight, or that were perhaps originally meant to play a more significant role in the fight but the developers changed their mind about that later. As is well known, the main challenge in this fight comes from the Shadow Imp Lord, who spawns in the centre of the room when you begin the fight. He oneshots people at random unless the character that is on top of his aggro list stands close enough to him; so you always need to have a tank on top of his aggro list and standing next to him. But you can’t use just one tank for this purpose, because the Shadow Imp Lord puts an unholy invulnerability debuff on any players nearby, and this debuff gradually stacks higher and higher, so that the tank standing next to him is getting hit harder and harder; thus you need several tanks, and when the current tank’s debuff stacks high enough, you send the next tank in, he takes aggro and the previous tank then moves away from the Shadow Imp Lord until his debuff expires, and so on. In principle, two tanks are enough for this, if they are reasonably well geared and if they know what they are doing; but to be safer, many pug raids use 3 or even 4 tanks for this.

As soon as you start the fight (and the Shadow Imp Lord appears), a steady stream of small imps begins spawning from all sides of the room and walking towards the Shadow Imp Lord, where they disappear once they reach him. The little imps can be DPSed and, with a bit of effort, killed before they reach the Shadow Imp Lord; but there’s no obvious reason to do so, and nowadays people very reasonably ignore the little imps altogether. In the early days after Wing 3 was open (in update 1.04), people had the idea that the little imps buff up the Shadow Imp Lord when they get consumed by him, and that this is why you should kill them (or at least most of them) before they reach him. But the little imps were too numerous and had too much HP to be killed, at least without having practically your entire raid dealing with them and almost nobody on the boss herself.

This is where the other two mysterious elements of the fight come in: the torch and the braziers. There’s a torch near the central square (where the Shadow Imp Lord appears once the fight begins), and several braziers along the walls of the room. One player can pick up the torch and then click the braziers to light them, and while a brazier is alight, no imps spawn from that side of the room (or at least much fewer than normally — it’s been a very long time since I’ve been in a raid that tried this, so I don’t remember the details). After a while, the fire in the brazier goes out, and the imps spawn normally again. So people naturally got the idea that you should assign a player to pick up the torch and then move around the room all the time, lighting the braziers so as to keep the overall number of the little imps as low as possible.

Carrying out this idea was made harder by the fact that picking up the torch generates a lot of aggro on Athyr-Bast; in other words, she’ll tend to attack the torch-holder no matter what the other players are doing to her. Nowadays some pug raids use this mechanic to reduce the risk that the main tank on her will lose aggro (e.g. because they put all guardians and DTs on the Shadow Imp Lord, leaving only conqs to tank Athyr-Bast, and many conqs have (or used to have, until the recent revamp) relatively weak aggro). But admittedly this mechanic looks like exactly the sort of thing that Funcom would implement to make the “proper” tactic, with lighting the braziers, harder to implement: if the torch-bearer is walking around the room all the time, and you practically can’t pull the boss off him, this means that the main part of the raid has to move around the room with him as well if they want to keep DPSing the boss. Additionally, it’s a challenge to prevent the boss from killing the torch-holder, because if she kills him, there’ll be no way to keep the braziers alight and prevent the small imps from spawning.

So this would be quite an interesting tactic — considerably more complex (and harder to execute) than what we have now, when we ignore the braziers (and often also the torch) altogether and just tank and spank the boss in a fixed place all the time. All that’s missing here is a reason to be interested in killing the little imps before they reach the Shadow Imp Lord. So perhaps the developers initially did intend the little imps to buff up the Shadow Imp Lord’s damage to the point where it would be impossible to tank him, even with 3 or 4 tanks; or perhaps they intended it to make it impossible to use more than 1 tank on him at all, because, from what I remember of the early post-1.04 days, swapping aggro on the Shadow Imp Lord was unusually difficult, much harder than on other mobs (nowadays swapping aggro on him is no harder than on other mobs), and perhaps the devlopers’ initial idea was that it would be impossible altogether.

But in practice, neither of these two things is the case. It is (and always was) possible to swap aggro on the Shadow Imp Lord and thus use more than one tank on him; and he never got noticeably buffed no matter how many little imps he consumed. So either they didn’t implement the missing mechanic here (to have the little imps buff up the Shadow Imp Lord), or they balanced things incorrectly, or they deliberately introduced the braziers and little imps (and TBH the torch as well) for no other reason than to confuse players.

But anyway, is it really the case that the little imps don’t buff up the Shadow Imp Lord? If they don’t, why would there be, early in the post-1.04 period, such a widespread idea that they do? (Of course it’s possible that they don’t buff him now but that they did buff him back then. I wasn’t analyzing combat logs back then so I can’t check.) And in fact, even in more recent times, I occasionally had the feeling that the Shadow Imp Lord hits a bit harder as the fight progresses. So I started to wonder if perhaps the little imps do buff him up a bit, just not enough to really make a difference (or to require a change in the tactics).

Then I remembered that I have a good way of analyzing this. A few months ago we killed Athyr-Bast with a 6-player group for fun: two tanks on the Shadow Imp Lord, one on Athyr-Bast, two healers and one DPSer. (In fact you could do it with 5 people — remove the extra DPSer and the only difference would be that the fight would last longer. Perhaps you could even do it with 4 people by removing one of the healers, but that would require a bit more care and some luck.) This fight took about 20 minutes; so if the little imps were buffing up the Shadow Imp Lord at all, surely this would be noticeable over such a long period. So I now processed the log file from that fight and came up with the following chart:

This chart shows us one point for each hit that the Shadow Imp Lord did; the x-coordinate is time when the hit occured (in seconds since the start of the fight), and the y-coordinate is how many points the hit was for. You can see the typical zigzagging shape — as a tank goes in, he gets hit harder and harder because of his stacking unholy invulnerability debuff, until the other tank takes aggro. But you can also see that there is no long-term growing trend in the strength of the hits; after nearly 20 minutes, the Shadow Imp Lord wasn’t hitting even a tiny bit harder than at the start of the fight. So I think we can safely say that the little imps don’t buff the Shadow Imp Lord at all.

P.S. This post gets funnier if you mentally replace each occurrence of the word “imp” with “pimp” 😛

  1. Sapiento
    October 22, 2012 at 10:15

    Ok I can see that blue dot was slacking cuz red dot tank had many +2k hits – so who was that? 😛
    Also I see that every 3rd or so hit was ca.50% stronger – you can clearly see it on normal/low damage hits. Any Idea why?

  2. October 22, 2012 at 10:28

    Blue was Mel’s conq before the recent revamp, so it took him a bit longer to grab aggro from me.

    I’m not sure about every third hit being stronger – TBH I doubt I even see that from the chart – I’ll take a look at the data later. It can’t be due to critical hits as the Shadow Imp Lord doesn’t crit.

  3. Loki Lyesmyth
    October 27, 2012 at 11:16

    he does buff cynara, up to six, as far as i remember, so only 6 litl imps need to go there. till; that why the tact you describe is so stupid

  4. October 27, 2012 at 13:49

    Well, but where does this concept of a buff up to six come from? I mean, there certainly aren’t any such buffs shown above the Imp Lord’s health bar. And if only 6 imps buffed him up like that, then he’d reach this within seconds after the fight started, and would again do constant (constantly buffed) damage for the rest of the fight (so the chart would still look practically the same as now).

    Anyway, I suspect someone confused things with the unholy invulnerability debuffs that the players get (and which do indeed stack up to 6).

  5. October 27, 2012 at 13:53

    Ah, I noticed it in the combat log now:

    [20:59:09] Shadow Imp Lord casts Consume Shadows
    [20:59:29] Shadow Imp Lord casts Consume Shadows Buff (1)
    [20:59:37] Shadow Imp Lord casts Consume Shadows Buff (2)
    [20:59:40] Shadow Imp Lord casts Consume Shadows Buff (3)
    [20:59:40] Shadow Imp Lord casts Consume Shadows Buff (4)
    [20:59:43] Shadow Imp Lord casts Consume Shadows Buff (5)

    The fight started at 20:59:09, so that would be at x = 0, 20, 28, 31, 31 and 34 on the above chart.

  6. October 27, 2012 at 14:03

    I zoomed in a bit on the early part of the chart but can’t really say that I see anything clear about whether the increases in the strength of the Imp Lord’s hits come from his Consume Shadows (at x = 20, 28, 31, 34) or from his stacking the Overwhelming Darkness debuff on me (at x = 10, 20, 30, 40, 50).

  7. Loki Lyesmyth
    October 27, 2012 at 18:58

    i dont remember corectly now, but i am pretty sure the oneshot cannot accure tile, the imp have devuff up to six.

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