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Archive for the ‘Death Knight’ Category

I’d been working on some ideas for Blood tank trees for Cataclysm, but after last weeks other bit of news, no not the RealID fiasco, the bit about talent trees being severely pruned, it’s a bit pointless. The Beta talents right now are going to be nothing alike what they’ll be at launch.

First off, each tree is being pruned down to 31 points deep rather than 51. It’s basically 2 tiers less. Second, we’re getting about half as many talent points total, so where we get 71 right now, we’ll probably only have points in the 30’s to play with by the time we ding 85.

At first this sounds like a massive nerf and simplification, but the reasoning behind it is that we spend so many talent points on must-have junk-talents like +1 to hit here and +1 to crit there, that most of those 71 talent points are being spent on boring talents. This makes a hell of a lot of sense. I know I drop otherwise awesome, fun and flavourful talents like Lichborne to instead pick up something dreary like one percent to dodge. Ho hum.

It will be farm more fun to be able to focus on grabbing ‘unnecessary’ talents like Mark of Blood or Blood Worms than minmaxing cookiecutter builds focused purely on stats. Especially the DK class, which loses out on a lot of versatility in the way cookiecutter builds spec in order to maximize dps or eh/threat. And it’s versatility that was supposed to be this class’s strong point. Something we had to sacrifice in trying to keep up with all the other classes. We lose out on so many ‘toys’ that are baked into other classes, and it’ll be refreshing to be able to haul out something super cool like Hungering Cold in a dungeon or raid instead of sinking that 1 point into getting 5/5 Black Ice.

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So, where am I these days, I hear you ask. Hypothetically. What’s up, Skurmish? How’s it hanging, broski?

Well, our ultra-casual guild is still working on Arthas 10man. It’s slow going as usual. People are burning out like the wickermen doused in high-octane.  Still soldiering along though, hoping to get Kingslayer for myself and a bump up the ladder for the guild. Been doing a fair bit of tanking in ICC actually, particularly on Arthas himself. Short factoid of the day, we are awesome offtanks for this encounter. Being able to simply drop that Death and decay at Arthas’ feet and pick up all those ghouls is quite something. After seeing our warriors and even paladins struggle with this aspect of the fight, I was somewhat chuffed at being able to handle it so easily. Score 1 DK tanks, woot.

I’m back to being Unholy. Frost was a fun experiment but it was becoming a little too bipolar. Either you’re doing incredible tank-n-spank dps, or you’re doing mediocre mobile dps. Unholy shines in both roles, so I chose to go with what I enjoyed most, was comfortable with and with what happened to offer the most overall raid utility. Warlocks are rare like hens teeth but shamans, a dime a dozen. Getting one of the resto or elementals to drop Windfury is far easier than getting a lock to keep that Curse of Whatever up all the time and on all the mobs.

Specifically, I’m 0/17/54 specced, and running around 700-ish armor penetration (gemmed all for strength mind you) with Shadow’s Edge and Deathbringer’s Will (woot!). Oddly enough, simming with AskMrRobot gave me a better sustained DPS score than a blood subspec, where everyone on teh forums and even EJ said otherwise. Huh. Interesting. So much for conventional wisdom. Frost subspec really seems to scale better in virtually every way and with virtually every stat weight.

In other news my warrior is coming along nicely, and I really do enjoy tanking the lowbie instances with him.  One thing I did realise is that Wrath of the Lich Kings’ content really isnt all that easy. We’re just horribly overgeared for it. Even with a good chunk of heirlooms, running easy (ie UK, Nexus) normal pug 5mans at level 70 can be nerve-wracking. When I hit 80 and start tanking heroics in noob gear I forsee many deaths in my scrub warriors’ future. I think if it weren’t for all the overgeared dps and healers out there that will no doubt carry me along, I’d be quite intimidated at the prospect.

Can you guys remember back to early Wrath, and chainwiping on Skadi in Utgarde Pinnacle, among others? When tanks running around in 25k HP gear was quite a lot, and healers actually went oom now and then? Crazy times eh? Also, it was fun. I realised that challenging 5man content is a breath of fresh air this late in the game, and the only way I’m getting some is to reroll. I hope to hell Cataclysm brings back some of that. It will be a real drag to have all us ICC geared clowns blitz through the early endgame content in a couple of weeks.

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Dark Knights

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I’ve recently begun playing my mage again. Not for raiding, but rather just for some pvp and gearing in heroics when I have nothing better to do.

It certainly took this sabbatical from trying to PVP as a DK to realise just how incredibly huge the rift is between certain classes in general PVP is. My mage in Frost spec is simply leagues ahead. I hadn’t played the class in months, pvp gear all hateful and deadly and I do amazingly well in BG’s, well enough to *gasp* consider arena. Hell, I come back to the class and am greeted with buffs rather than nerfs, like Frostfire Bolt being usable with Brain Freeze. Since when did frost mages need pvp buffs? I wish I’d got that memo months ago!

With my DK, every BG feels hollow, frustrating and unfulfilling. Every encounter seemingly regardless of class is the same. Run after guy spamming chains hoping to catch him, and if I do, hit him with Scourge Strike that hits for a whopping 1K. Absolute, total fail. It doesn’t get much better in Arena’s, where DK’s are pretty much bottom of the overall presentation. This has been the case for such a long time now that we aren’t even upset about it. That’s just how it is. Ho hum, DK’s suck at pvp, oh well. What a crock. Obviously Blizzard couldn’t be arsed about fixing DK’s for PVP before Cataclysm, so it’s probably time to realise that it’s an uphill battle and move on.

I still think it’s a great PVE class, both DPS wise and for tanking, but Blizzard needs to really do something about it’s PVP potential if they care at all about it’s viability in PVP. I’ve long believed that a class’s ability to PVP effectively would influence it’s PVE popularity, and with DK numbers appearing to drop daily, it looks more and more like by the time Cataclysm rolls around, this class will be nigh extinct.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Often in WoW’s history, a class needs to nearly die off before Blizzard admit’s they screwed the pooch. And boy did they do that with this class.

My DK will be sidelined, to be used exclusively for raiding for the time being. I love him to pieces and have so many hopes for buffs in future patches and, certainly, looking forward to what Cataclysm heralds for us. But right here, right now? Time to realise, we are Blizzard’s least favourite child. If those buffs don’t materialise in the near future or for Cataclysm, we’re gonna need an insurance policy.

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Recently I’ve begun to wonder whether getting the 2 piece Tier10 for more AoE threat is worthwhile. Thing is, which actual bosses in ICC require strong AoE tanking? Let’s see…

Marrowgar? Nope

Deathwhisper. Kinda, but I’ve had zero problems so far

Gunship. Nope. If you’re going over, you’re on Brann. If you’re staying, you only really need to tank the Sergeant.

Saurfang. Nope.

Festergut. Nope.

Rotface. Nope.

Putricide. Nope.

Blood Princes. Nope.

Blood Queen. Nope.

Valithria. Not really. Just as long as you DnD the worms after the abom goes down. The frost mage simply needs to be mindfreezed, and the blazing skeleton’s Blast Wave can’t be tanked, neither can the suppressors or that other thing that needs to be kited by ranged. So even though there are a lot of adds running around sometimes, you don’t really need to be AoE tanking them.

Sindragosa. Nope.

Lich King. I dunno, haven’t tanked this. I suspect for the offtank, tanking those ghouls in Phase 1, but if DPS is doing it right they won’t even need much aggro since offloading that disease onto them is the proper way to do it. Dunno bout the rest of the fight.

In a nutshell, ICC requires no real AoE tanking whatsoever. It’s pretty safe to say you don’t need 2XT10 and/or the DnD Glyph as a raiding tank, then. So why do so many people out there say that these two elements are vital? For trash? Just let the pally or warrior do it. Is trash really serious business? Are people really so worried about raid trash and running heroics that they’ll blow precious Frost Emblems on 2xT10? Naw, man. Naw. Buy the nonset plate instead. Get that trinket, it’s godly. Buy the cloak, the 264 chest/belt/etc and patch it up with some 245 gear. As a tank, focus on single target threat and survivability. A few dead dps who can’t control their aggro isn’t a train smash. A dead tank on the other hand, is a wipe.

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Frost DPS Review

After a week of evaluation, I’ve switched my main DPS spec from Unholy to Frost Dual Wield.

Is my DPS better as Frost? Overall, no, not really.
In fact, my overall DPS and AoE DPS might have suffered somewhat. Single target DPS over a long fight is about the same, and suffers on high mobility fights. So why switch? Burst. Burst damage isn’t something you can plainly evaluate in logs and recount meters. It’s something you notice while raiding. I noticed it during the Gunship fight, where being able to rocket-pack over and pop Unbreakable Armor as a burst cooldown every time helped burn down the channeler much faster than what I was used to. The same is true of trash, being able to burn a single dangerous mob down much faster, or on fights like Deathwhisper where you can burn through a Cultists shield that much faster and without having to have diseases up. At the expense of overall sustained damage, sure. Most often the case is that it all somehow balances out. There appear to be some fights that favour Frost, and some that favour Unholy (Sindragosa springs to mind). Picking between these two specs based on damage potential, then, is purely subjective. They appear to be more or less equivalent.

Does it offer better utility? Better buffing?
Not so much, no. If your raid has a lot of shamans, even untalented Windfury Totem can buff melee quite well. The 13% buff Unholy brings to raiding, on the other hand, can only be replaced by a Warlock, and they are quite few and far between. Specifically it has to be an Affliction warlock, and with most locks being destro, it largely falls to the DK’s to provide that (de)buff. However, what Frost DOES provide is a the most versatile hotpluggability in terms of damage role the class has to offer. See, Unholy does good sustained AoE and single-target damage, but that’s it. Not much room for switching things up. Frost, on the other hand, can change gear so to speak from single to AoE damage simply by switching up Obliterate for Howliing Blast whenever it’s available. Moreover, by switching your Razorice offhand for a Cinderglacier-runed weapon, and cleverly lining up Killing Machine and Cinderglacier procs (I use Power Auras to tell me when both are up at the same time) you can unload some incredible AoE burst damage – hitting EVERY mob in the blast radius for upwards of 15K+ in one hit is something to see. Feels like a nuke just went off. Sure you still won’t be doing the same amount of AoE over time as unholy, but for large amounts of mobs with relatively low HP you might, in fact, be able to do more AoE damage than even Unholy is capable of. And it’s that capability to switch up, as the scenario demands, that gives Frost a significant advantage.

The truth is, Unholy and Frost are almost identical in terms of raw damage and raid utility. Frost is a lot more frantic and severely constrained by GCD and careful proc management, and feels far more hectic to play. Unholy is slower, and steady, and terribly reliable. In my opinion it’s far easier to play, but also somewhat limited in comparison to frost.

So choosing which to spec for is entirely up to you. It’s rare that a class has two equally viable DPS PVE specs, so we are quite lucky we can choose which one we enjoy. As for Blood, it’s pretty much fallen by the wayside. With BiS and ARP capped, you can perhaps match Unholy or Frost, but it would be a  bad time to pursue that avenue with Blood falling away as a DPS spec in Cataclysm. May as well use the time to get used to Frost or Unholy.

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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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