The High Dragon that engages the player at the Bone Pit (during the Act 3 mission Mine Massacre) is potentially one of the toughest battles in Dragon Age II. This page may offer some tips and insight on defeating it.
The High Dragon has the following traits:
- Cannot be Frozen
- Immune to Brittle
- Immune to Enslavement
- Immune to Explosive Death
- Immune to Fire-based damage*
- Immune to Knockback
- Immune to Knockdown
- Immune to Immobile
- Immune to Inevitable Death
- Immune to Paralysis
- Immune to Sleep
- Immune to Slow
- Immune to Stun
Aditionally, she has the following known attacks:
- Chomp: A nearby fighter will be snatched up in the High Dragon's mouth then repeatedly shaken and tossed up in the air. This is a rare attack, but by far the most powerful. It can take about half the health of a well-armored tank. If the High Dragon's health reaches one of its quarter marks, this attack will immediately stop and only partial damage will be taken.
- Claw Swipe: This can be performed with both the front or back claws.
- Fire Breath: The High Dragon spews a far reaching inferno of fire in a forward cone, dealing massive damage.
- Fire Spit: The High Dragon spits out a homing fireball at one of your Party members, exploding on impact. This is significantly less powerful than Fire Breath.
- Pounce: The High Dragon leaps into the air out of sight, then pounces back to the ground knocking down and damaging any fighters near its landing area. Its landing area is random, and not always targeted at a fighter.
- Roar: The High Dragon lets out an ear-splitting roar, stunning anything near it for a brief amount of time.
- Tail Swipe: This attack reaches 180 degrees to the rear.
- Wing Buffet: The High Dragon rears on its hind legs and gives a single wing flap. The damage from this extends a short distance, but for 360 degrees.
This is the busiest (71 enemies in normal difficulty) boss fight of the game and can require a lot of effort and time, but if each mode is handled properly and pause is used often, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Healing will almost definitely be required, so bring a healer, potions, and/or Devour. And definitely bring your Act 2 tank. Adding frost runes and/or poison to party weapons and/or bringing a Mage with the Enchant Weapons spell and the best cold-damage staff available can make this long fight a little shorter. Fire Warding equipment and runes can be very helpful.
- Keeping a tank attacking the High Dragon will usually keep her from using her Fire Spit and Pounce attacks. If ranged fighters stay out of range of Fire Breath, this should prevent anyone except the tank being attacked or taking damage during the basic attack modes. If the tank constantly moves to the side of the High Dragon, attacks briefly, then steps back a short ways while her melee attacks, they will also avoid most damage while still keeping her distracted. The High Dragon will leap and turn to face the tank, but keep circling and striking and the mode should be finished with little health loss if attention is paid to moving out of range in time. This does not always prevent the dreaded Chomp. Without a tank attacking, the fight will take much longer, but the below tactics should help the fighters still be able to avoid most of the damage from the High Dragon.
- Fire Breath and Wing Buffet attacks take longer than the others and are a good window for the weaker melee fighters to rush in, strike, and retreat to wait again.
- The landing area of a Pounce attack is unpredictable, but has never been the same place as the lift off area. Keeping ranged fighters just close enough to perform their special attacks places them outside of the Fire Breath range, but close enough so they can rush in as soon as the High Dragon’s red indicator circle disappears, which means she’s about to take off. You must still, and always, pause and check for Fire Spit.
- Fire Spit has a limited homing ability. This will be directed at a single fighter, but explodes on impact damaging any allies that are very close by. Keeping fighters a distance from each other as often as possible, makes it much more apparent who the fire ball is aimed at, so that fighter can be immediately moved out of the path of the fire ball while the rest continue their assault.
- The fighting mode changes at each quarter mark of her health, so it is a good idea to begin to use basic attacks and let stamina/mana regenerate and attacks cool down as those levels approach.
- Summoning modes make it possible to regenerate health and stamina/mana in relative safety. Simply lead the last Dragonling in circles while avoiding Fire Spit and regenerating.
- Petrify is a very handy spell in this case since it freezes an enemy for a duration, giving you time to replenish health & mana/stamina, change the position of party members and attack without fear of retaliation.
- There is a blind spot where the dragon cannot hit you with fireballs. It is to the west of the hill where she jumps onto for the summoning phases, or the NW corner of the battlefield when viewed on the minimap. Staying close to the hill, it is possible to lure the dragonlings and dragons with ranged attacks while not taking any damage from the fireballs.
- The dragon has a tendency to get "stuck" on the hill after all mobs in the summoning phases are killed. During this time, the dragon will keep spitting fire balls at your party, but you will only be able to retaliate with ranged attacks. Due to the long distance, some attacks such as winter grasp cannot be used. Sometimes the dragon will get stuck there after the last summoning phase until it dies.
- As with all melee bosses with unavoidable melee AOE attacks, it favors a heavily ranged based party setup as melee rogues are unable to tank or dodge the damage.
- When the dragon is on her perch, if you move along the outer wall to the north, the dragon will sometimes stay there and not be able to reach you with her spit; sometimes this allows you to save, meaning all health/stamina/mana is restored, and fallen characters are revived.
The battle has two distinct modes that repeat: the basic attack mode and the summoning mode. The fight starts with a basic attack mode in which the High Dragon is on the ground fighting your group. This is the easier of the two modes. Move the ranged fighters out of Fire Breath range, the non-attacking melee fighters off to the side, and have the tank move in and begin the hit-and-run attacks from the side while the ranged fighters dump whatever they have into her. Dodge Pounces or Fire Spit if they happen, but the tank’s attacks should prevent them. Heal the tank as necessary, but many of the High Dragon’s attacks are avoided by staying to the side and moving a short distance back between your own attacks. When about 25% of the High Dragon’s health is gone the first summoning mode will begin.
The High Dragon will leap to the tall cliff to the right of the area and become invulnerable. She will summon her young for you to slaughter while she watches and lets out an occasional Fire Spit at a random target- including the dog. Move your fighters apart, if they aren’t already, to better gauge the intended target and dodge her attacks. Pausing regularly to check for smoke and fire tendrils coming from her nostrils as an indicator of an impending Fire Spit will help you avoid all of her attacks. They are infrequent and only occur about five to ten times (normal difficulty) in each summoning mode depending on how long you take to complete it. Spawning takes place all around the open area, but the majority happens at the distant end. Arranging the fighters near the entrance is ideal as it gives ranged fighters a longer attack window before they are within melee range of the attackers. This also provides a slightly greater distance from the High Dragon’s perch which allows for a tiny bit more time to notice that she will or has spit a fire ball. This first summoning mode brings Dragonlings. They have small health bars, so a group attack can take one down in a second or two. Unfortunately, there are thirty (normal mode) of them. They appear in groups of two or three near the walls, and the first wave has approximately fifteen that make their way towards you. Like most enemies, they will mostly go for the nearest target, so make sure the tank (or the dog) is who they see first. Have the tank attack any that aren’t headed his way to get their attention. Once they began to cluster enough around the tank, AoE attacks should take them down quickly. Have the other fighters move up, if necessary, to execute their attacks then move back to prevent group Fire Spit damage. The remainder of the Dragonlings will began to appear and straggle up before you have killed the entire first wave, so try to save some for them. If you need mana or health, lead the last Dragonling in circles dodging Spit Fire and regenerating. Once her young have died, the High Dragon will perform a Pounce to return to the ground. Before she leaps, her red indicator circle will appear, and she will become vulnerable to ranged attacks from the correct distance. During this time she may spit a succession of fire balls at a more rapid pace. The number of Fire Spits at this point can be from zero up. When her red indicator disappears, prepare for her Pounce. She tends to go for the target of her last Fire Spit, so have them move.
After recovering from her Pounce and moving fighters into position, take off the next 25% of her health in the same way as before. The tank should be the only one taking damage, so concentrating on avoiding those attacks helps.
The second summoning mode is a wave of eleven Dragonlings with the same small health bar and one Dragon with a normal health bar and then another eleven Dragonlings beginning to appear later. The Dragon doesn’t appear along the wall like the others, and usually approaches more slowly which allows for some alone time with the first Dragonlings that arrive. The Dragon’s fire does the most damage. It also uses an occasional wing attack that stuns anyone nearby. Other than that, it seems to only use forward attacks. So have the tank handle the Dragon in a similar manner as the High Dragon- step around to the side to avoid the Dragon’s damaging attacks, attack until the Dragon turns to face him/her then move again. Or step to the side, attack Dragonlings until the Dragon turns, then step again. Ranged fighters will likely be busy at first with the few Dragonlings that come for them, but after that, they can focus on taking down the Dragonlings that are slowly wearing down the tank’s health. Or they can freeze/stun the Dragon while the tank works on the Dragonlings. Keep in mind that whichever they attack will likely come after them if not being attacked by the tank. As before, the remaining Dragonlings will not wait for the first wave to be gone before they began to spawn. Heal and regen if necessary before finishing the last of the little ones. Remember to pause constantly to check the High Dragon for Fire Spit the entire time, but the attacks will be as infrequent as before.
Deal again with frequent Fire Spit and a Pounce, then wear the High Dragon down to around 25+% in this basic attack mode to initiate the final summoning mode.
The first wave brings only five Dragonlings and a single Dragon followed shortly by five more Dragonlings then finally five more Dragonlings with another Dragon. The second Dragon did not appear for this player until the first was dead (normal difficulty); on Nightmare, the second Dragon will probably show up before you're done with the first. With AoE attacks on clustered Dragonlings, this can be one of the easiest modes as long as the tank stays to the side of the Dragons while fighting. On Nightmare, as long as you have enough paralyzing effects (Petrify, Horror, Winter's Grasp) to keep the Dragons out of your hair, this mode should be pretty easy going.
The final basic attack mode is the same as the others, except there is no need to conserve stamina or mana. Distract and dodge with the tank and pour every last bit into the High Dragon as fast as your attacks can cool down. If your tank needs regular healing, remember to save some for him or her.
Keep a healthy tank distracting and dodging and have everyone avoid Fire Spit, and this battle, while long, will not be very difficult.
Have Anders in your party, but make sure he has Winter's Grasp, Cone of Cold, Tempest, Panacea, Regroup and Aid Alies. Alternatively, if Hawke is a mage, it's not too difficult, even on Nightmare mode, to ignore the Vengeance tree for Anders altogether and invest in offense, as long as Hawke and Anders have chosen Heal; in case your tank succumbs to Chomp, you can heal them remotely. The rest of your party shouldn't be taking damage, as long as you're cognizant of the Fire Spit, and you keep your ranged fighters the appropriate distance away from any kind of dragon.
Some good party ideas are: Anders, Merrill, Varric. Aveline, Varric, Anders. Or, Fenris, Aveline, Anders. But whoever you choose, be sure to have Anders in your party (if Hawke is a mage, have them cast Cone of Cold or anything else Anders has, plus bring Anders for double the fire power). Also, if you bring a 2H warrior, having Bloom with a couple of frost runes is helpful.
As mentioned above, have a tank with lots of hit points.
Bestowing runes of Fire Warding in your companions' armour slots helps an immensely against the fire attacks. Alternatively, or additionally, there is a wide range of wearables available for all party members offering anything from 180 to 900+ fire resistance.
Hit the Dragon with as much cold weapons/spells as possible and as often as possible.
Cold-Blooded is an awesome staff for this fight.
When Dragonlings start to attack, cast Tempest and Cone of Cold. This will pretty much wipe them out.
At one point in the battle, after defeating the dragonlings, the high dragon won't come down from her vantage point for a while. Use this as an advantage. Although the dragon keeps spiting fire, it is easy to out run the fire spit. Have Anders cast Panacea and this will allow your party to regenerate faster than normal. Keep running back and forth avoiding the spit and regenerating at the same time! You can also raise any fallen allies, or drink some Lyrium Potions or Stamina Draughts.
If spreading out to avoid Fire Spit is giving you trouble, you can stack your group up and move the whole group when a Fire Spit is on its way. The ability is homing, but if you move quickly, it will not catch you.