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Archive for April, 2010

Why Frost DPS?

I’ve been raiding as Unholy for the better part of, oh, 3 months, and the spec is great at what it does. Sustained DoT based damage which happens to be great on mobility fights and aoe, which ICC has a lot of. I’ve been very pleased. So why did I spec Frost Dual Wield recently?

Two reasons

1: Burst damage is insane. My DPS in heroics, for example, suffers because the full effect of my dots rarely last. Frost DW doesn’t need to worry about dots. The spec feel vastly different to Unholy, which has a sedate, snowball-rolling-downhill kinda feel. Frost is quite the opposite, it’s all bout the big hits right now, when you need ’em. The benefits to this are fights like Putricide where you have to burn an ooze down really fast. Play smartly and you can line up sufficient death runes to land 3 Obliterates and a couple frost strikes in quick succession.

2:Frost feels more engaging. There isn’t really a rotation-based gameplay to this, but rather about reacting to procs and prioritising attacks. It’s far more frantic. For those players who enjoy a more active role in their dps, this is great.

There are, of course, downsides. No permanent pet and weak dots mean if the Frost DK isn’t on top of his target at all times, he’s losing valuable DPS time. And Unholy really does have a huge advantage in the form of Bone Shield which quite drastically improves a DK’s life expectancy.

I’ll be evaluating the spec a little more over the next few days to determine whether it’s superior for personal raid dps. The haste buff is nice to have since we have no (regular) enhancement shaman, but losing out on 13% extra damage to casters is a bit harsh. Not sure how this’ll impact 10man raiding, but the 13% extra damage in 25mans would be massive and probably speccing Frost would be non-viable if the guild was 25man progression focused. ‘Fortunately’, it isn’t. 10 man is how we roll, and i’m sure the ret pally and occasional rogue benefitting from a huge haste buff will more than make up for the loss of dps to the one moonkin and occasional warlock.

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Cataclysm Raiding

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Big news today is that Blizzard will be restructuring raiding in Cataclysm so that the same raid id lockout is utilised for both the 10 and 25man version of a raid.

And then the penny drops, and they announce that both 10 and 25 man versions will offer the same level of challenge and the same level of gear.

At first it seems as if they’re caving to casuals once more and that they’re pretty much removing 25man raids from the game. But take a moment to think about it. Consider your guild, and how it progresses right now. Odds are 99 % that every raiding guild out there progress the same way. Ie:

1:Do the raid in 10man normal
2:Then do the man in 25man normal
3:Then do 10man heroic
4:Lastly, 25man heroic

It’s likely that this won’t actually change for cataclysm. 10 man will be the progression focal point, and 25’s of a tier back will be the casual farming for lulz content. Some guilds will likely focus on 25man, and some will go strict 10, and it’s nice to see the 10man guilds not penalised too harshly for focusing on smaller raids. I certainly do hope that they’re able to make them equally challenging, though. I’m not sure that’s possible. The very nature of 10 man raids mean cohesion and teamwork is easier, which means 10 man raids actually have to be slightly harder than their 25man counterpart, because a large part of the difficulty in 25mans isn’t necessarily getting people to be skilled individually, but to work together.

I can certainly understand 25man progression guilds will not take this news well. Looking at my guild which focuses on 10man raiding, the gear disparity is going to be effectively removed between 10 and 25man raiders. Being on this side of the fence it, it’s awesome. Being on the other would be…dissapointing. It seems the focus will shift more to heroic versus normal in terms of proving your epeen superiority, rather than 10 versus 25. Perhaps that’s a good thing? It’s a slippery slope though, because 10 man content is a hop skip and jump away from simplifying things even more down to, say, 5man, and making this massively multiplayer experience ever less massive is perhaps not such a great idea in the long run.

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Blizzard forum posts have recently made no bones about how crowd control will make a return in Cataclysm.

I’m quite supportive of this, although I have a few reservations:

Firstly, will the general WoW playing populace be able to adapt to  renewed complexity? Especially after launching the Random Dungeon Finder? We all know that the overall quality of a pug heroic is far, far below that of a guild run. The potential for failing, if an importance to CC mobs returns, will skyrocket. Now, I wholeheartedly support CC – I like the idea of strategizing difficult pulls instead of just bulldozing through everything, and some challenge is always welcome. It’s a tough job balancing fun and challenge, and I’m wondering if spoilt DPS are going to be up for a bit of difficulty in their dungeon runs.

Secondly, I hope DPS DK’s aren’t left out in the cold as a result. We all remember Magister’s Terrace, I specifically played a shaman at the time and the only way I could run MGT was as resto. Having no crowd control at the time meant not getting an invite. That instance absolutely required at least one mage and preferably a warlock, or two mages. Fury warriors, Enhance/Elemental shamans and any other dps that couldn’t knock a mob out for 20 seconds + simply had no place. I’m hoping that if CC becomes important, again, that all DPS specs will gain some form of CC, and that this includes Frost and Unholy death knights. Frost would be easy, we could gain a single target version of Hungering Cold that lasted a little longer. Not so sure about Unholy though. Perhaps a Sleep effect, locking the target into an induced nightmare to face its worst fears? Alternatively it’s possible that either spec could have talents that improved Chains of Ice that we could at least CC a melee mob, but the skill would then need to be reworked so as not to make it too OP for PvP.

CC is great but nobody wants to be the guy who can’t do it and gets benched as a result.

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Forsaken need a redo

I’ve been contemplating a race change from Orc to Forsaken on my main, but it just seems to be a waste.

First off, it’s not exactly cheap. I could almost buy That Retarded Horse for the price of a race change.

Second, it’s a downgrade, and this is the biggest problem I have. Orc DK racials for PVE are just too good, both for tanking and DPS. For Unholy, a little extra pet damage, blood fury and expertise on axes is just too good to pass up. Undead get nothing to compensate. Zilch, zero, nada. 5 shadow resistance is worth exactly nothing and Will of the Fosaken has essentially no use whatsoever in 99.9 percent of PVE encounters – fear, charm and sleep effects are pretty much non existent out of PVP.

To add insult to injury, WOTF is pretty much useless in PVP too, since being nerfed to share a cooldown with the mandatory trinket.

Looking at all the races I could choose, Undead are clearly now the poorest in every single category. Virtually every race has a increase to a certain weapon’s expertise (Dwarves, Humans and Orcs all get bonuses to maces, swords or axes), or they have a cooldown to increase dps for a bit (Trolls and Orcs), or they have a passive effect that makes them better at something (nelfs with extra dodge, draenei providing some extra hit, taurens having some extra HP) or some other ability that makes them strong at pvp (belfs with their aoe silence and energy/mana/RP gain, taurens with warstomp, gnomes with escape artist, humans with every man for himself).

Perhaps if fear/charm/sleep effects were as dominant in pvp today as they were in BC, having that extra trinket slot would make it worthwhile, but human and gnome racials are for more valuable, and both races come with some other passive bonuses – gnomes have some more base int, humans with their extra expertise with swords and maces…

So it’s really, really hard making the decision to switch over. The thing is, I love the Forsaken. I love their lore. I love their loyalty to Sylvanus, and pledging allegiance to the Dark Lady is almost…religious. Thrall has lost favour in my eyes. He’s a walkover. Orcs, taurens and trolls have lost much of the ‘old Horde’ flavour, and this whole peace kick that the faction has been toying with has become old. It feels… toothless. Garrosh seems like a promising change, but also comes off as stupid and rash. No-one fears or respects him. He’s merely a loud, blunt instrument, and orcs generally approve of, say, Saurfang the Elder as a potential leader far more than Hellscream’s son.

Most of all, I love the Forsaken’s… malevolence. Their will to power. They know what they want and will let nothing get in their way.

I hope Blizzard seriously reconsiders Forsaken racials to make them viable as a race from a minmaxer’s point of view. Perhaps proficiency with bladed weapons – swords and daggers – would make sense and help bring them in line? And/or perhaps a small buff to shadow damage instead of shadow resist, which would be great for DK’s, warlocks and shadow priests and would fit thematically? WotF is a touchy subject but perhaps to compensate for the sharing of a CD with the trinket, adding a short period of actual immunity to fear/charm/sleep would make it worthwhile losing out on the trinket stun/snare break?

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I’ve tanked ICC10 as a stand in,  often do VoA 10 and 25, sometimes tank the weekly raid or TOC or Ony for fun, and they go smoothly. But step into a pug heroic and, quite often, the group struggles to plod through. I’ve watched raid geared people die on Garfrost over and over and over again, with sheer incredulity. You don’t even NEED healing to survive. Just hide behind the rock when it gets thrown and wait for stacks to fall off. I’ve done it with everyone bar a single wary DPS dead. How is it possible that the second some people step into a heroic, they turn into complete retards?

Often, deaths happen on trash. Most heroic boss fights have turned into brainless zergs and since you’re building threat on one target in that situation, the fight turns into a pretty simple tank and spank. High dps today has made bosses easy. But, oddly, trash harder. 9 times out of 10 the reason people die is due to them dpsing targets you aren’t building threat on. The concept of making the tank focus and using a assist focus macro somehow remains foreign to people. If you are being highly outgeared by dps there’s little you can do to prevent losing aggro if some warlock is nuking an add you aren’t focusing on.

There’s a handy little addon called Skullme which I’ve come to rely on immensely. All it does is mark your current target skull (after x amounts of seconds, configurable). With it, dps has no excuses. You can focus threat on that target while spreading aoe threat to the others around with without worrying about stray aggro.

This little mod has saved me countless grey hairs and I highly reccommend it to any player out there gearing up badge loot or instance leveling as a tank. You can find it here.

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While I enjoy tanking, it’s not a role I tend to find myself doing in raids much. There are reasons aplenty, some of it’s demand and supply (the raidgame often sees a glut of tanks, where there’s a dire shortage when it comes to 5man content), some of it’s trust (raiders tend to get VERY attached to their tanks and rarely is a new tank met with much approval, it’s like changing pilot midflight) and some of it’s fear on the part of potential tanks themselves (can I DO this?). But now and then, opportunity knocks, and it’s up to you to seize it.

Last night’s ICC10 raid saw such an opportunity knock when one our progression team’s main tank couldn’t make it. I keep a tank spec for heroics and have accumulated some semi-decent tank raid gear from drops that the 2 regular tanks passed on. The situation boiled down to a case of, either I pick up the slack and we try and get as far as we can, or we call it. When the chips are down, getting even the first couple bosses down instead of clearing 8 bosses in 3 hours, is better than nothing. So how did it go?

We cleared 10.

I was flying by the seat of my pants and nervously reading up on wowiki strats on the fly. Thankfully, Power Auras Classic saved my butt a number of times, being able to punch in a debuff to watch for on my focus (the other tank) on the fly and have it yell at me (literally) to taunt was a lifesaver. Oneshot, for example, on Festergut on my first ever attempt. Putricide on the second go, took me one wipe to learn how to pilot the abomination. It was an incredible run blitzing through ICC10 as the offtank, and even though my gear was far short that of the MT and other main-specced guys, I felt like I was doing well enough.

I also came to realise that DK’s make great tanks for ICC. There are simply so many situations where some of our cooldowns give us an edge, anti-magic shell in particular, coupled with new Will of the Necropolis and Blood’s self healing, I never felt like I was too squishy. Granted, tanking trash was handled mainly by the warrior tank, but we’re just fine for bosses.

Some things I figured out

-Antimagic shell needs to be used liberally. Tanking Deathwhisper adds in the middle of her Death and Decay? No problem.  Need to run through Marrowgar’s blue fire to get to the other tank? No problem. Kiting ooze through slime on Rotface? No problem.

-We are fantastic at ranged threat with new Icy Touch, which is more important than you’d think. Nobody offtanks Rotface better than us.  Nobody kites Deathwhisper’s empowered adds better than us. It’s a niche we have buttoned up tight. Exploit it.

-We can ride MT threat at a whim. Warrior tanks and bears get rage starved if they aren’t being hit. We can choose to crunch out massive threat, or scale it back, at a whim, by adjusting the amount of Icy Touches in our rotation. It’s a huge boon on a number of fights.

-A little tip on Blood Princes, if you’re tanking Taldaram (we had a lock on Keleseth), when he gets empowered, summon your ghoul army. They’ll eat a good chunk of his Empowered Flame Orb as it’s flying out towards the target. This makes life a heck of a lot easier on dps and gets them more time on him.

-Spamming Death Strike when Festergut has 3 inhales is pure win, try and line up your Death Runes just as he gets the third stack and you’re tanking.

-On Valithria, try and pull the mage near the abomination as it dies , with both diseases up on it you can drop a DnD and pestilence the diseases over to the spawned bloodworms, then blow Blood Boil to eradicate them quickly. Remember to mindfreeze the frostbolt volley, it lets dps get to the burning skelly fast.

All in all my first serious foray tanking ICC10 was really positive, and I don’t quite understand the negativity around DK tanks. We are, to use the cliche, Fine. Lrn2Play.

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The DK changes are up, as usual this is a very early pre-beta look, anyone who followed the Wrath ramp up will know how much changed between the first round of info going public and the actual expac launching, so take everything with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, it’s illuminating stuff. MMO-CHAMPION has all the nitty gritty, so head on over there for the full thing.

DK changes in a nutshell from my POV:

-Runes reworked completely to be sequential. Example, if both blood runes are on cooldown, rune #2 will only start ‘reloading’ once rune #1 is already ‘loaded’. This means less riding the gcd and more ’empty space’ between strikes in our rotation. The intention appears to be making using the right rune ability at the right time more important, instead of just trying to squeeze in strikes everywhere we can like the glorified whack-a-mole excercise it currently is. Strikes should be hitting harder but slower and/or situationally. This is a good thing, but hinges on strikes and abilities being balanced around this, ofc.

-Outbreak, on a 1 minutre cooldown applies both frost fever and blood plague with one strike, and costs no runes. Anyone whose played a DK knows the painfully slow ramp-up-time we have when switching targets. This alleviates some of that.  You can’t completely replace Icy Touch and Plague strike though, due to the 1 minute timer, so Outbreak will be primarily for use as an opener and for switching from one mob to another in raids. Regular sustained DPS rotation will still require you using PS and IT to refresh diseases, or Glyph of Disease.

-Necrotic Strike. Applies a debuff that ‘eats’ heals. Sorta similiar but also somewhat unlike Mortal Strike. Instead of a 20% reduction of all heals for the duration it will prevent a flat (perhaps scaling) amount of healing done on the target. Not sure if that’s better or worse than an MS effect, but either way it’s a welcome pvp addition, sorely needed by us DK’s who currently, simply speaking, cannot kill a healer. Period.

-Dark Simalucrum. Copies the next spell of a target and directs it back at them. In essence it’s sorta like a warrior’s Spell Reflect. The difference is that this copies the spell instead of reflecting it back, so a DK still gets slammed by the spell. On the other hand, it may affect spells that aren’t directly targeted at the DK or possibly beneficial spells, such as aoe spells or summoned minions or buffs, in that manner making it a combination of Spell Reflect and Spell Steal. It all hinges on exactly what can and what can’t be copied. If I can duplicate a mage’s Mirror Image, for example, it would be very good indeed. PVE implications are also potentially potent, being able to replicate certain powerful boss spells/abilities could be too good. So I suspect this will probably be tweaked to be next to useless in PVE, but probably a nice enough pvp ability.

-Talent tree reshuffling to accomodate Blood as the tank tree includes abilities like Bone Shield moving to Blood. This is exciting news for tank DK’s, having access to Bone Shield AND Vampiric Blood and possibly even Unbreakable Armor, for example, is totally sweet.

All in all, looks like major buffs and changes to tanking and pvp.

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