Petless Unholy – Ideal, thus Unlikely
May 17, 2010 15 Comments
With an empty morning, you all get the joy of a second post from me. Lucky you? ^^
About a month ago, GC made the following post in regards to people asking for a “plain” 2H tree in Cataclysm, seeing as how Blood will be gone:
The idea of DW Frost and 2H Frost coexisting isn’t what I want to tackle here. That’s easily doable in any number of ways, and if Blizzard wants to make it happen, it will happen, especially since they’re completely revamping the talent trees regardless. I’ll delve into that topic at another point in time.
Instead, what I want to look at is the idea of Unholy dps without the ghoul. Although GC’s post is hardly indicative of any concrete change, it’s still a very interesting point of speculation. Is it possible for the tree to be redesigned where both pet and petless are relatively equal and viable? If it is, is it actually likely to come about, or were GC’s words simply abstract musings? Assuming it is possible, and Blizzard actually does push the idea, how could it even be done?
I’ll preface this discussion by saying: No, it’s not possible. No, it’s not likely.
So what is there to discuss?
Putting my negativity aside, to determine how the two could coexist, one has to pinpoint what separates them; what does the ghoul give you which its absence does not, because isn’t that what a petless playstyle would have to provide to become an attractive alternate?
- Increased dps, of course. More precisely, it gives you GCD free, resource free, movement (for the most part) free single-target dps which scales with hit, haste, strength but not armor pen, crit, agility, and attack power. This is the primary factor.
- A stun, and the only one the DK as a class has available.
- Cast push-back.
That’s it? A stun hardly matters in PvE, and cast push-back is completely inconsequential aside from PvP. If increased dps is all it takes, then what’s to stop Blizzard from offering a Demonic Sacrifice-esqe talent which prevents you from using a Ghoul but increases your dps by just enough to cover the gap?
Nothing, except the issue then becomes what keeps the pet playstyle from being completely irrelevant? After all, if Blizzard wanted Unholy dps to be done solely without the perma-ghoul, they could just eliminate the talent, and that would be that. If they’re going to make any sort of change to the relative balance of these two playstyles, it would be to make both viable, not one at the expense of the other, and the fact is, the Ghoul has way too many drawbacks to its use if it doesn’t give you any benefit short of raw dps:
- It scales poorly with gear. As already mentioned, your ghoul doesn’t benefit at all from your armor pen, crit, agility, and attack power. Looking to the future, it won’t benefit from mastery.
- It scales poorly with buffs and talents. Blood Presence? Desolation? Bone Shield? Dark Conviction? The list could go on, but none of them affect your pet. This isn’t likely to change – the way the primary and secondary mastery’s (% damage and % melee crit, respectively, for Unholy) were in the leaked alpha client has them benefiting only you as well, not you and your ghoul.
- It ignores fight-specific modifiers. Starlight/Storm Power on Hodir, Light Essence/Dark Essence on Twin Valkyrs, Essence of the Blood-Queen on Lana’thel – the ghoul doesn’t get an once of increased damage from any of these mechanics.
- It has a pet’s AI and a pet’s pathing. If you don’t micromanage it, there are many fights where it’s going to stand around and do nothing during certain phases (if you get Iceblocked on Sindragosa, for instance) or it will go and get itself killed (Crusher Tentacles on Yogg-saron, anyone?). Even if you do constantly keep an eye on it, that’s still less focus you can apply to other aspects of the fight. What more is the pathing – it won’t jump with you on Gunship, and no matter what you do, it won’t attack Yogg’s brain. It’s inherently limited.
- It can die. No matter how good you are at managing it, your Ghoul can and will die, even with it’s 90% AoE damage reduction. When it dies, that’s 30 seconds of lost dps, followed by it doing reduced damage (due to lack of buffs) for the remainder of the fight.
- Its damage is only single target. No explanation necessary here.
You get the idea. If one has the choice between “X dps without a ghoul” and “X dps with a ghoul”, he/she would have to be a fool to choose the latter.
This only leaves two options: Keep Ghoul dps higher than non-Ghoul dps by enough of a margin to compensate for the natural limitations of a pet (but not by as large a margin as today, where not using your Ghoul is like not using a presence and thus a no-brainer) or give the ghoul some added perk which it doesn’t currently have.
Option one sounds excellent on paper, but it would be terribly difficult, if not impossible, to actually implement in game. How much compensation is enough? How much is too much? Too little? More than that – Ghoul and Ghoul-less dps wouldn’t scale equally, so what do you balance that compensation around? A player in blues? Epics? Best in slot? What about fights with specific mechanics which throw pet specs behind their competitors, no matter how much they may be ahead on otherwise? What about AoE verse single-target, Ghoul and Ghoul-less? You can’t nail all of these factors at every gear point for every encounter. If you balance it around perfect conditions for the ghoul, then in imperfect conditions it’s horrible, and if you do the opposite, then it’s too strong. Either which way, one wins out.
Option two has the same problems as the above, but gives room for more solutions: What if your ghoul did less damage, but had a chance on hit to energize you with runic power? Or Gnaw refreshed an Unholy and a Frost rune on use? Or Claw was made into a cleave? You could get rid of (or otherwise minimize) many of the downsides of a Ghoul, but then the pendulum of balance swings in the current direction of “why would you ever spec without it.”
One or the other is always going to reign supreme, aside from niche situations, and since there’s no point in opening the possibility of petless Unholy without actually making it viable (which would then have to kill off pet Unholy), there’s no chance of it happening. The two simply can’t co-exist.
The sole exception to this is if you stratify it and make petless Unholy for PvE and pet Unholy for PvP. That could be done, and without too much trouble at that, but I doubt it’s what GC had in mind with that post. I could certainly see it happening though, and would love the class/tree to head in the direction.
I’ll be honest – I utterly detest Mudcrawler/Dirtgobbler/Blightchewer. Pets, and all of their many issues, are part of the reason why I once played a warlock but no longer do. I would love nothing more than for Unholy to become less pet-centric, but it isn’t possible without killing off that playstyle, and I can’t see Blizzard radically changing the tree that much – either they’ll keep the current option and open a new one, and let you choose between the two, or they’ll stick with the current option and that’s it. They won’t simply introduce a new option and kill off the current, as much as it would be nice. If both exist there must be a choice between the two which is more than “if you want to do better, pick this, and if you want to do worse, pick that.”
If only balance between the two were possible.