Quite appropriately considering the imminent arrival of patch 3.5.5 (which will bring the Gnomish retaking of their beloved city of Gnomerigan) and the fact that Gnomerigan is on the list of instances scheduled for a Heroic version in Cataclysm, this weekend and last night it was what kept my cute nelf-butt hard at work.
I haven’t run Gnomerigan since I was levelling Ravenjet and even then I only did it once. The instance is long – taking roughly 90 minutes on a perfect run, and that I’ve never yet seen happen. It’s remarkably tough at times and it has one of the most annoying parts to it you can imagine. Alone of all the instances I know, the trashmobs respawn on a wipe, so if you wipe 50 meters away from endboss Thermaplug… well you gotta rerun the entire thing including rekilling all the trash to get back there… not cool (I’m not sure about this but I think you can get around this by having one party member at least NOT releasing, and res’ing him instead. When this is possible, worth a try).
In the end sucessfully tanking my way through Gnomerigan took all of five runs (technically I was only in there twice, but on the first run we wiped three times within sight of Thermaplugs chamber, and on the second once more before finally getting there). During this process I ding’ed not just once but twice and at level 28 I learned Challenging Roar which helped a great deal. Most of the dungeon is fairly easy, tiring you out over it’s long length is a bigger problem than the actual game. It takes effort to keep up tanking concentration for four to five hours at a time but the majority of the mobs come in groups of 3 to 5 which is not too hard to pull.
It helps a great deal to have a warlock or hunter in your group – if you do have them tank the ranged caster mobs with their pets so you can focus on the melee mobs at least initially – this makes the whole thing easier on you as a tank (less running) and on your DPS guys (less chance of being attacked by said ranged caster) and of course on your healer (less damage to the main tank). At the Gnomerigan levels – a hunter would need either a tough spider or bear as pet to really tank it, a warlock should be using his voidy.
The part where it mostly all goes wrong is the final tunnel downward into Thermaplug’s chamber. This tunnel is filled with a small army of mobs, and they have habit of all getting pulled at once causing an instant overrun wipe. The tunnel has three levels, two higher ones along the edges and a lower middle road. Don’t even try the middle road, it leads directly into an army of mobs.
On the upper levels, you sadly still have a real risk of pulling those mobs. The only way to avoid this is to hug the wall as closely as possible. There is a ledge on the edge of it which you can get up at the beggining of the tunnel. Have you healer and ranged DPS run along top of the ledge and fight from it as far as possible as this reduces their risk of pulling the mobs from the middle. As tank, huge the wall – when you pull, try to pull toward you and never go any further from the wall than you have to. This does reduce you mobility a lot – which in turn means you have limited ability to chase after any mob you lose aggro on, and also means you can’t really avoid the landmines, sorry nothing to it- your healer just has to heal you through the mines and you have to do whatever it takes to get back any lost aggro without running them down. This was where challenging roar saved us more than once. Unlike demoralizing roar – it’s not just a threat boost, it forces all nearby mobs to attack you for 5 seconds – enough to further boost your threat a great deal with a demo roar and a few swipes (or whatever equivalents your particular tanking class uses).
Once you make it past the tunnels you’ll enter Thermaplugs chamber. This boss can be incredibly tough if you don’t know the secret, but really there is just one tactic you have to know to pretty much nail it. Before you start the fight, have one of your DPS’ers volunteer for "Bomb Duty". Thermaplug’s major difficulty is the bomb-adds he spawns quite rapidly, left alone they will quickly overrun the group – so have on DPS entirely dedicated to taking them out as fast as they spawn. The other two DPS’ers can then focus on the boss while you tank him, and the healer now has a much easier task as he doesn’t have to deal with a load of add-damage as well, in fact he can focus almost solely on you as the tank.
Get that bit right… and Thermaplugg is a ridiculously easy boss. After the long and tough run to get to him it’s almost a dissapointment how easilly he goes down – I have absolutely no reservations about saying that the tunnel to get to him is a much harder fight than the boss-fight itself.