Four Tower Flame Leviathan
Hard Modes in Ulduar make the encounters have a high “replay value” - essentially you can go back and do the same boss, but instead have a more interesting encounter that is also much more difficult, and receive better loot from it. Flame Leviathan has 5 different modes: Normal (0 Towers), 1 Tower, 2 Towers, 3 Towers, and 4 Towers. The encounter gets more complex and difficult with each added tower.
It doesn’t matter which Towers you decide to leave up and which to destroy - it is often a matter of preference. However, you do need to know the abilities of each tower to make that decision and to handle the encounter well, whether you’re opting for one tower or four.
Activating Hard Mode
Hard Mode Flame Leviathan is activated by speaking to the Lorekeeper of Norgannon, located in the expedition base camp. For 0-Tower FL you would normally activate the event by speaking to Brann Bronzebeard, then skip all of the color-coded orbital defense towers. For hard modes, though, you begin it with the Lorekeeper which activates those towers' defenses. If you want to leave less than four towers up you must go and destroy the towers you do not want active. For Orbit-uary (4-tower) you do not destroy any of them.
Each tower left active grants Flame Leviathan 40% extra hit points (multiplicative). With four towers up this ends up being 65 million more HP on Normal mode and 199 million HP on Heroic mode (just shy of 3x as much HP). Additionally each tower buffs the boss and adds a threat to the raid in various ways.
Tower of Storms - Thorim’s Hammer
The Tower of Storms boosts Flame Leviathan’s outgoing damage by 25% across the board. This applies to battering ram, turrets, and flame vents so avoiding unnecessary damage and keeping him overloaded as much as possible is very important. Thorim’s Hammer also causes pillars of light to appear shortly after the battle begins that will deal 10% damage to any target hit by them, as well as 1% AoE damage that hits every vehicle. This only occurs once, and after that the only effect from this tower is the increased damage.
Avoiding these beams while they’re active can be a little bit tricky, and it is advisable that every single vehicle stay moving so as to never be stationary long enough to get caught by the beam. The raid can’t afford for any vehicle to lose that much HP that would have otherwise been avoidable. Keep in mind - the first beams that appear will “fire” first as well, so watch where “older” beams are and try to move in a direction towards “newer” beams.
Tower of Flames - Mimiron’s Inferno
The Tower of Flames has the passive effect of increasing the fire damage dealt by Flame Leviathan by 50%. This damage effects flame vents and also the turrets. Flame Vents are typically easily interrupted, minimizing the effect of this buff. Regardless, this plus other buffs by other towers all but guarantee that your Chopper is going to be destroyed before the encounter is over. The trick is making sure it isn’t so long before that it destroys the strategy.
In addition to this, Mimiron’s Inferno causes fiery orbs to appear shortly after the battle begins. When the orbs strike they will deal a large amount of fire damage to any nearby vehicles and also leave behind a powerful flame on the ground that will inflict an extremely heavy DoT to any vehicle that touches them. The laying down of fire follows a set path, for the most part. Basicly any corner will end up being cut off by walls of flame, so it is important for kiters to be aware where fire is and where it is going if they’re going to survive.
Tower of Frost - Hodir’s Fury
Shortly after the Flame Leviathan encounter begins, Hodir’s Fury will activate. This causes beams of a blue-greenish white light to appear around the room and follow players. Simply being touched by these beams does nothing, but they will occasionally stop and drop a ball of ice that will encase any nearby vehicle in an ice block. These ice blocks deal enormous amounts of damage every second, but can be destroyed by any fire attack by players. However, for four tower FL it is almost impossible to be successful if anyone takes a significant amount of avoidable damage, such as from an ice block. Therefore it is critical that players stay moving and never position themselves near a paused ice beam.
Tower of Life - Freya’s Ward
Shortly after the battle with Flame Leviathan begins, Freya’s Ward will be activated. As a passive effect, Freya’s Ward reduces all fire damage dealt to Flame Leviathan by 10%. This puts a damper on most damage dealt to the boss so is a little bit on the frustrating side. The worst part about Freya’s Ward, however, is the adds. Occasionally green beams will appear in the corners of the room spawning a wave of Lasher adds - typically one or two large adds with roughly 650k HP and several smaller ones with around 200k HP.
The fastest way for Lashers to die is for them to be stacked on Flame Leviathan and take splash damage from a Pyrite Barrell. Unfortunately controlling the lashers is exceedingly difficult and you won’t often be so lucky. On 25-man there is usually enough flaming tar on the ground that a Chopper or two can aggro them with a Sonic Horn attack then speed-burst-kite them through a flaming patch, which kills them off fairly quickly. On 10-man, however, Tar is scarce and you’ll have to use more traditional add-destruction methods. One reliable method is to have the Siege Engine Gunners focus on killing any adds that spawn.
The biggest problem with Lasher adds, however, is threat. If struck by a gunner of either a Siege or Demolisher the plants will not aggro onto them. However, if struck by a driver, they will. This includes the much more vulnerable Choppers, who have to be very careful about using Sonic Horn when any adds are up.
The vehicles available to your raid are:
Demolisher x 2(n) x 5(h)
Siege Engine x 2(n) x 5(h)
Chopper x 2(n) x 5(h)
Normally groups leaving up no towers will use the pure burn method, that doesn’t involve launching any players on top of Flame Leviathan to take out turrets and never triggers a shutdown. With this method every vehicle is used. However, leaving up four towers requires a different approach.
In order to defeat Flame Leviathan with four towers up the raid must launch players to trigger shut downs. However, if you’re using two or five of each vehicle this means that the Demolisher drivers will run out of Pyrite, lose their stacking DoT, and therefore the vast majority of the raid’s damage. To counter this, you have to switch up the vehicles.
For a 10-man group attempting 4-tower FL, the following vehicle breakdown is recommended:
Demolisher x 2
Siege Engine x 2
Chopper x 1
As you can see, this leaves a “free” player with no vehicle. What we do instead is have three people assigned to one Demolisher. One driver and two alternating gunners/launchees. When the fight is about to begin, the first launchee loads into the launcher and the second loads into the gunner seat. As soon as FL is engaged the first player gets launched and takes out both turrets on his own. Elemental Shamans, Warlocks, and Moonkin Druids are particularly well suited because they can heal themselves a little bit before being parachuted off of FL’s back.
When Shutdown occurs, the Demolisher gunner must wait til its nearly over then load himself into the gunner seat while the lone Chopper ferries the first launchee back to the Demolisher to take over gunning duties. It sounds complicated, but mastering the gunner/launchee dance should be easy for two skilled players.
For 25-man mode, the following vehicle breakdown is recommended.
4 Siege Engines
5 Demolishers, two of which have a single permanent gunner and three of which have two players each doing the launch dance. The tactic for this on 25-man is the same as on 10, accept instead of one vehicle doing it, three are.
In conclusion the key to defeating 4-tower Flame Leviathan is this:
Don’t run through fire, don’t stand in beams, don’t aggro adds, kill adds, keep the Pyrite stack rolling, keep the Pyrite Barrells stocked, keep flaming tar on the ground, interrupt Flame Vents, launch people, trigger shutdowns, carry and heal launchees and, above all, stay alive.
Four tower Flame Leviathan is pure Chaos, but controlling that chaos even by a small degree is the key to success. Good luck!