Cenarius Strategy/Tactics for Normal/Heroic

Last updated on Sep 21, 2016 at 00:20 by Damien 5 comments

Table of Contents

General Information

On this page, you will find a working strategy to defeat Cenarius in The Emerald Nightmare for both Normal and Heroic modes, which usually only differ by the tuning of the boss.

Here, we assume that you have read our descriptions of the abilities for this encounter.

The other pages of our Cenarius guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Pottm from Serenity.



The fight against Cenarius is entirely based on reacting to the mechanics of the encounter, which gives raiders a lot of liberty to organise themselves, as there is no task that requires complex raid-wide coordination. The only important decisions are left to the raid leader(s) (i.e., choosing which adds to cleanse). So the checklists we gave for each role in the Introduction page should be more than enough for the average raider.

If you want to understand things more deeply, though, then keep on reading.


Phase One

An important aspect of Phase One is choosing which adds to cleanse, so we will start with this. Then we will make a few mentions about Creeping Nightmares Icon Creeping Nightmares' stacks management, positioning, before moving on to each of the roles.


Which Adds To Cleanse?

The triplet of adds you get every time from Forces of Nightmare Icon Forces of Nightmare followed a predetermined sequence on the Beta. There is no guarantee that it will be the case on live server, so we will assume here that the adds are randomly chosen (and it is possible to get 2 of the same add in a triplet).

In Normal mode, the bonuses you get from the cleansed adds are really just bonuses and the encounter can be completed without them. So, you will often choose to cleanse an add just so it does not fight against you. For example, if you get 2 Sisters, you might want to cleanse one of them, just to avoid having to deal with double Scorned Touch Icon Scorned Touch.

In Heroic mode, the fight is harder and you might have issues like healers running out of Mana or players mismanaging their stacks of Creeping Nightmares Icon Creeping Nightmares.

In terms of how beneficial the adds are, we would rank them in the following order.

  1. Wisps — Their small Cleansed Ground Icon Cleansed Ground is very useful to help with managing Creeping Nightmares Icon Creeping Nightmares stacks, almost trivialising one of the annoying mechanics of the encounter;
  2. Cleansed Ancient — The Mana regeneration is very welcome if you get an Ancient later on in the encounter. Early on, it is not as useful, as the healers are still stocked on Mana.
  3. Redeemed Sister — Unbound Touch Icon Unbound Touch is very useful for dealing with misplaced patches of Nightmare Brambles Icon Nightmare Brambles, if the raid does not have classes with immunities who can deal with those (Hunters with Aspect of the Turtle Icon Aspect of the Turtle or Rogues with Cloak of Shadows Icon Cloak of Shadows).
  4. Emerald Drake — Ancient Dream Icon Ancient Dream might be of value right before transitioning to Phase Two, so one of the tank gets some extra protection (although it will not do anything to reduce the size of the void zones spawned by Spear of Nightmares Icon Spear of Nightmares).

In terms of how disruptive/dangerous/detrimental they are to your raid (and therefore how quickly they should be killed), we would rank them in the following order.

  1. Corrupted Wisps — These move all around looking for players to reach and detonate their AoE on, which is very disruptive to the raid's positioning and can lower overall DPS. They have low health, so focusing them down quickly should be a priority. They can be crowd-controlled, so do not hesitate to stun them root them, freeze them, etc.
  2. Rotten Drake — The Drake is normally on the same level as the Nightmare Ancient, but since it starts pulsating increasing AoE damage to the raid when it drops below 50% health (Nightmare Buffet Icon Nightmare Buffet), it takes over the Ancient in the kill priority.
  3. Nightmare Ancient.
  4. Twister Sister — This add has many abilities that forces raid members to move, which can be disruptive to the raid's DPS. That said, they can be interrupted, which means that Twisted Sister is left with just Scorned Touch Icon Scorned Touch, which is not complicated to deal with.

In most cases, you will want to cleanse the Wisps or the Ancient. Sometimes, if a bad combination comes along, like one with double Twisted Sister, you can cleanse a Twisted Sister, to make it easier to deal with the non cleansed adds.


Creeping Nightmares' Stacks Management

We found that clearing stacks at 30 stacks in Normal mode and 25 stacks in Heroic mode works well. At such levels of stacks, the damage is approximately 100k every 2 seconds, which is still manageable.

This means clearing every minute, which is entirely possible given the cast pattern of Cleansed Ground Icon Cleansed Ground. This ability is cast every time Forces of Nightmare Icon Forces of Nightmare is cast, so every 80 seconds. Each Cleansed Ground can remove the stacks of raid members at least twice: once when the Cleansed Ground appears (if raid members are quick enough to move out, the Cleansed Ground will not shrink) and then once again afterwards. Even after doing this, the Cleansed Ground will not have disappeared and can be used for a few more clears.

If, despite the advice here, the raid is running out of Cleansed Ground and some members are running high on stacks, then you can decide to get some Wisps at the next cast of Forces of Nightmare Icon Forces of Nightmare.



For the most part, the encounter does not require players to position in any particular way, so players are relatively free of constraints.

Two abilities require specific spreading: Destructive Nightmares Icon Destructive Nightmares from Corrupted Wisps (8 yards) and Nightmare Javelin Icon Nightmare Javelin from Twister Sisters (4 yards). So, spread out accordingly when these ads are present. Rotten Breath Icon Rotten Breath from Rotten Drakes does not require to spread in a particular way, but players need to ensure that there are not too many players between them and the Drake.

Desiccating Stomp Icon Desiccating Stomp from the Nightmare Ancient requires melee players to stack on the Ancient. This cannot interfere with the spreading for the Corrupted Wisps (in the case of a Corrupted Wisps+Nightmare Ancient combination), because Desiccating Stomp is cast 20 seconds after the Ancient spawn, by which time the Corrupted Wisps should all be dead.

Aside from that, move to avoid all obvious effect on the ground.



One tank is needed to take the boss and another one for the adds. During Phase One, there is no need for a tank swap.

Before each cast of Forces of Nightmare Icon Forces of Nightmare, Cenarius should be tanked in the middle of the platform. When the raid decides on an add to cleanse, the boss should be brought towards that add, so that the raid is next to it, which is the trigger for Malfurion to cleanse it.

When the non cleansed adds spawn, the second tank needs to pick them up (or just gather them in the case of the Wisps, so they can easily be AoE'd down) and tank them away from the boss — at least 20 yards in Normal mode and 30 yards in Heroic mode — to prevent the application of Aura of Dread Thorns Icon Aura of Dread Thorns to them.

It is possible to optimize raid DPS here. Aura of Dread Thorns Icon Aura of Dread Thorns has a duration of 45 seconds and a cooldown of approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds. What this means is that when Aura of Dread Thorns fades from Cenarius, there are 30 seconds during which you can take the boss and adds together for maximum DPS.



There are a number of effects that can be dispelled. The most important of them is Twisted Touch of Life Icon Twisted Touch of Life from the Twisted Sisters, which places an very powerful HoT on the boss. This needs to be dispelled immediately, as otherwise the raid will be heavily set back. This ability has a cast time and DPS players should interrupt it, but if it goes through, healers need to step in.

Other than that, you can dispel players rooted by Nightmare Brambles Icon Nightmare Brambles or players afflicted with Nightmare Javelin Icon Nightmare Javelin.

In terms of healing, you need to get used to the damage pattern of Creeping Nightmares Icon Creeping Nightmares which ramps up very very slowly and then almost completely disappears once players clear their stacks. Nightmare Buffet Icon Nightmare Buffet from the Rotten Drake seems like it requires a lot of healing attention, but the damage ramps up very slowly and the drake dies very quickly. Tank damage in Phase One is almost a non issue. The boss tank barely takes any damage. The add tank takes more damage, but for a short amount of time with a long period of relief in between. So, you will mostly be looking out for the occasional mistake: players hitting a patch of brambles, players caught in the Rotten Drake's Rotten Breath Icon Rotten Breath, Scorned Touch Icon Scorned Touch from the Twisted Sister spreading to other raid members, etc.

Note that Scorned Touch Icon Scorned Touch is a slowing effect and can therefore be removed using freedom effects like Blessing of Freedom Icon Blessing of Freedom or Disengage Icon Disengage. If removed this way, Scorned Touch will explode right away.



DPS the boss and switch to the adds when they appear, following the kill priority given earlier:

  1. Corrupted Wisps;
  2. Twister Sister;
  3. Rotten Drake;
  4. Nightmare Ancient.

When a Twisted Sister is up, DPS players need to interrupt her cast of Twisted Touch of Life Icon Twisted Touch of Life. She normally only have time to cast this once, so there is no excuse for letting the cast through.

In addition, melee DPS should soak Desiccating Stomp Icon Desiccating Stomp with the adds tank.



We have mostly touched upon all these points in the previous section, so here is a recap of common tasks for everyone.


Phase Two

Phase Two is a simple burn phase.

In Normal mode DPS should burn the boss and completely ignore Malfurion. He gets trapped and damaged by Entangling Nightmares Icon Entangling Nightmares, but Cenarius will die before Malfurion does. In Heroic mode, Phase Two lasts longer, so you need to free Malfurion, so that he does not die and continues providing you with patches of Cleansed Ground Icon Cleansed Ground to reset your stacks of Creeping Nightmares Icon Creeping Nightmares.

Nightmare Brambles Icon Nightmare Brambles is still used, so the brambles need to be kited away from the raid.

Tanks have the hardest job in this phase. They need to swap the boss between themselves after every cast of Spear of Nightmares Icon Spear of Nightmares. They also need to use a cooldown or ask for one (so there needs to be a sort of cooldown coordination between tanks and healers) in order to reduce the damage of Spear of Nightmares, which reduces the size of the void zone spawned by this ability. After the cast, the boss needs to be moved away from the aforementioned void zone.



  • 21 Sep. 2016: Added more details following pottm's review.
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