Howling Blast – WW/DS Treatment, Or…

I couldn’t decide whether this topic made better for a blog entry or an actual forum post. They each have their upsides; most notably, the latter gives the chance at blue feedback, which is always quite desirable and thought-provoking. As such, I might end up cross-posting this there (albeit with some slight edits/condensing). We’ll see!

Howling Blast. Currently, in Wrath, it’s fine. It suits it’s purpose well, and doesn’t cause much of any issues. In Cataclysm, however? An attack which is integral to our single target rotation and is incredibly potent against a single target, but also happens to hit like an absolute truck if there are multiple mobs around? That’s completely at odds with the expansion design philosophy, due to the many (many) issues it causes:

  • Crowd control conflict.
    • In Wrath, CC was never used, so having an AoE attack be part of our single target rotation didn’t matter, but in Cata? What do you do if a sheep is right by the main target? Just ignore HB, and let your dps suffer? Use it, breaking the sheep, thus letting your group suffer? Obviously one would choose the former (on genuinly difficult content), but both options are quite distasteful.
  • AoE rotation comes to mirror single target rotation.
    • Blizzard has stated they don’t like AoE rotations being too similar to single target rotations, and who can blame them? When you have an ability which you have to use in both situations, however, that’s exactly what happens. It’s boring to do the same thing regardless of the number of mobs present, not to mention it’s skill-less.
  • Free DPS if there’s an extra target present.
    • Similar to the above, Blizzard doesn’t like if you just gain a couple thousand dps because another mobs just happens to be by your current target. If you do something different to gain the damage – say, Pestilence – that’s perfectly fine, but if you change absolutely nothing and see this huge spike in your output? That isn’t right.
  • Difficult to balance around.
    • Do you balance HB’s damage around a single target, thus making it ridiculous in AoE scenarios? Or do you balance it around multiple targets, thus making it pitifully weak against a single target (but still used because you’re essentially forced to for lack of any alternative)?

Something needs to be done, as can easily be seen. Currently the ability has all of those issues – it’s incredibly strong on one mob, and thus too potent on several, and it’s integral to our single target rotation, thus we gain free dps and do little different in our AoE rotation.

Whirlwind and Divine Storm had these exact same issues going into the expansion. Blizzard solved that by simply cutting their damage in half. An inelegant fix, perhaps, but an effective one, to be sure. It’s one, however, which doesn’t fly for Howling Blast, due to one key reason – WW and DS weren’t essential to their respective classes’ single target rotation. They used it, sure, but only because it’s damage was high enough to be worth doing. Once nerfed, they simply shift to another ability.

With Frost Death Knights, however, we basically have to use HB on a single target, even if the damage doesn’t justify it – this is due to Rime and Runic Empowerment. Yes, we could theoretically go without those two talents, but then our rotation becomes an actual fixed, rigid rotation again, and that’s undesirable to the players and to Blizzard. Thus, although they could take the route of just nerfing the damage, that would then entail a redesign of how the class is supposed to be played, and a reworking of the trees (even if they’re getting overhauled, Rime is a shoe-in for the new ones).

There are other options, however. The ability can be made to work without a simple number nerf, and here’s a few propositions how:

  • Change the tooltip/functionality of HB to: “Blast the target with a frigid wind dealing X Frost damage, and an additional Y Frost damage to all targets infected with Frost Fever within Z yards.”
    • Although this wouldn’t completely solve the problem of it being used in both our single target and AoE rotations (a problem which can never be entirely fixed; some overlap is inevitable with the DK design), it would solve the other issues. It wouldn’t deal any damage to mobs by the target without Frost Fever, meaning you could safely use it on a single mob without having to worry about breaking CC. As well, the AoE damage could be balanced separately of the single target damage.
  • Change the tooltip/functionality of Rime to: “Your Obliterate has an X% chance to reset the cooldown of your Howling Blast and cause your next Howling Blast to consume no runes and deal Y% additional damage, but hit only one target.”
    • I like the first concept more, but this could work as well. Rime is the primary reason we have to use HB on single targets (with Runic Empowerment being the other, but RE has its own issues, and is another topic for another time), thus you can solve most of HB’s issues with it. Simply balance HB’s damage around AoE. Thus you’ld only use it on Rime procs, but on Rime procs it wouldn’t be AoE.
  • Add a talent to Frost which causes Icy Touch to empower your next Frost Strike/Obliterate, or perhaps causes it to do increased damage on subsequent casts if Frost Fever is already up.
    • Rime and RE can both be used on Icy Touch, it just seems counter-intuitive to use IT when you don’t need to apply the disease, not to mention the damage isn’t balanced appropriately. Adding a talent which makes it actually seem fit and intended would then allow HB to be devoted solely to AoE.

The fact is, Howling Blast can’t make it out of beta in its current state. Something has to change, and although it might appear easiest just to cut its damage, that has too many consequences to work for us like it worked for Warriors and Paladins. A more sophisticated, but not necessarily complex solution is needed, and the above are just a few of the endless possibilities.

Done right, HB has the potential to becomes an even more interesting and even more spec-defining spell, while being more balanced. Done wrong, well… let’s just say, I have the utmost confidence it will be done right!

29 Responses to Howling Blast – WW/DS Treatment, Or…

  1. gravethought says:

    I like the idea of HB only doing damage to FF targets. Would also help frost be able to use it in pvp without worrying about blowing CC open.

    I have a question for you though? You mentioned partial resists are gone…. can you elaborate? Do bosses just not partial resist anymore? Can you partial resist pvp damage? What about boss attacks and resistances…. no partials would mean a really RNG-ish feel to resists.

    • Consider says:

      Boss dummies do not partial resist anything I do. Yes, you can still partial resist damage from npcs. I haven’t tested it in PvP yet, but I certainly can later. I would assume it’s unchanged

      It just gets rid of an annoying, unavoidable, poorly understood PvE dps mechanic, that’s all. Quite a welcome change!

  2. Rodalpho says:

    A very simple alternative would be to add an Icy Touch buff to Rime as well. For example,

    Your Obliterate has a 45% chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast, set your next Howling Blast or Icy Touch to consume no runes, and cause your next Icy Touch to deal triple damage.

    With this simple change, frost DKs wouldn’t want to use HB on single targets in the first place. Players would have different priorities when faced with single and multiple targets, which is of course the design goal.

  3. Zerioc says:

    Couldn’t you just give HB the Chaos Bane treatment where it deals x damage divided between each mob hit? Say 2000 damage single, 1000 to each of 2 mobs, so on. ( random numbers picked as I’m in a hurry and need to get ready for work ). Or is there some downside I’m missing to doing that? Although, your first suggestion would be a lot nicer 😀

    • Consider says:

      There would still be the fact that it didn’t play well with CC, which is presumably going to be important in the expansion.

      Plus, what if you want to focus dps on the main target, but a critter wanders by? Bam, half your damage transferred to the rat! CB-style doesn’t quite work out.

      • Joe_nothin says:

        It would work if you mixed that with idea #1: Split the damage between all FFed targets. Then you have a choise of what it strikes and how much.

        Also, i’m given to understand that pestilnaced FF isn’t the same one as the cast one. You could make it deal less damage to anything that had dimunitive FF, and nothing to mobs that had no FF. This way you could have a choise – you hit the other mobs slightly, or you FF them for real and hit them hard.

      • Gordak says:

        This a very good idea and makes the ability very unique

        Demage is split by all targets with FF on em, gets my vote 🙂

      • Sag says:

        It’s worth noting that you could still HB a rat because pestilence will spread to all targets, even if they are neutral to you. It takes about 3 seconds for any base disease (no haste) to tick (which would presumably kill the rat), so if you IT-PS-Pest-HB, half your damamge would go to the rat immediately inflicting massive damage to a lvl 1 critter. I wouldn’t mind, but well, the min/maxers would. Also simply by requiring HB to be in frosts rotation would severly gimp frost on fights like Saurfang where melee can’t AoE with impunity. I’d favor a heavy hitting IT proc, over HB for CC and adds aggro.

  4. Rebellion says:

    Just out of curiostity, have you encountered the aoe cap yet (does it even still exist) ? In bigger pulls I always hit it on live, if it hasn’t changed it might not be that much of a problem in regards of too much dmg, it still has its cooldown. With the ridicolous dmg numbers of Cataclysm, its dps were hardly out of proportion if the ability were to deal 40k dmg on one target and 10k to all other targets around combined (in a raid scenario ofc with very good gear).

    Though that only solves one of many problems. The CC issue could be solved my making it a cone-aoe but thats still a aoe which it should not be. They could very well make it a single target ability, though that on the other hand does kind of strips us of a very precious aoe ability. Theres also always the glyph option (even though its often a bad one) but the aoe dmg could be turned into more singletarget dmg. Or make Rime only proc a free IT with twice the dmg (or what it needs to be balanced) The possibilities are endless, but in the end it depends on what blizzard wants to do with it, by the looks of it they stripped it off its tripple dmg to frozen targets already, right ?

    To be honest at the moment we have a ton of things that do not work out. Unholy could do with a better filler ability that uses frost runes, maybe thats also an option somehow. I don’t know, I guess I will reserve some more detailed feedback when they finally show the new trees.

  5. Baadshah of Dawnbringer says:

    As far as interfering with CC goes, wouldn’t it be possible to make HB a “smart” spell like the Wandering Plague talent is? In this scenario, it would specifically avoid damaging targets under the effect of CCs that could be broken by damage.
    Just a thought.

    I think your second suggestion is the most viable- it doesn’t let us abuse Rime for free AoE, while simultaneously allowing for HB to be used as viable single-target DPS. However, it might also become quite frustrating when you DO want to AoE and end up with unwanted Rime Procs. I’d hate to have a cancelaura macro for that =/

  6. Ledge says:

    What if they gave it the Arcane Missiles treatment and made it a proc-only spell?

  7. Coldfire989 says:

    You didnt give up on Unholy did you Consider?

    • Consider says:

      Of course not. I’m just saying that, if the patch were live as is, I would be playing Frost 2H. That’s all. Much will change between now and the expansion actually being launched, and I’m keeping a very open mind!

      Besides, I do plan on doing both Unholy and Frost guides in Cataclysm, regardless of which I may personally be playing, so no worries!

      • Coldfire989 says:

        I read your twitter post after I posted this. So hoping myself once they do the big update with talent points everything will even out so to speak.

  8. GentlemanLoser says:

    Hi Consider. The feeling I had on this issue (no idea how it will change with the new trees!) Is that Blizzard wanted IT to replace HB on Rime procs for single Targets.

    So we IT or HB (with the same Rune Cost) on single Targets/AoE respecively, and when Rime procs, again have the choice of using IT or HB with it.

    While IT is based around it’s application of FF, HB can be seen as a disease applicator as well (when Glyphed), and IT (or HB) can be tweaked in numbers to make them a choice, and not make HB the defacto option (Maybe add IT to GoG for the crit damage increase alongside HB, or some such).

    Plus I remember a veiled Blue post about them not likeing where HB was, and wanting to buff it a little.

  9. Vulgor says:

    In my eyes all of DK aoe isn’t CC friendly, i mean pestilence will break cc and that’s pretty much needed for just target swapping between two mobs without having to IT and PS again. To some degree Outbreak will help for target swapping but being without pestilence in a pack of mobs slows down our single target dps.

    Any idea that requires a dot to be on a mob before a spell will effect it suffers the same issue because getting the FF on a pack of mobs without pestilence(which will break cc remember) is troublesome.

    The only solution to breaking cc i see is the old strat of pulling mobs away from the cc’d mob then think about aoeing. To some degree i’m not sure why we should be different with avoiding breaking CC. Every other class has to manage it a bit.

    • Sag says:

      I agree about taking the mobs away from the CCed target. The question would be how far? Currently I enjoy the glyph of pestilence, as adding 5 yards to taht spell is nice while grinding, or in heroics, but in Cat I think this could be an issue. I realize that there are mods for this, but blizz shouldn’t be designing their games with the intention of using mods. That is one reason I’d like Consider to submit to them an idea on how to make the standards DK UI better, like what is the runes were placed next to presences on the UI? They’d be bigger, and relatively centered on the screen, of course this is far from the buff bar, but I don’t think it would be that difficult of a fix.

      • Rebellion says:

        They should improve the way runes are displayed first. With the new rune system and their functionality they should be displayed by bars or at least with a timer. If it were not for the clunky death rune mechanic, which does not work well with the new system anyway, it were like having 3 energy bars tbh, with 1 rune equaling 50% of that bar. I wonder when they realize that our “rune system” does no longer involge runes in the first place. We could just call it blood-, frost- unholypower.

      • Sag says:

        I don’t mind the death rune system. I think that the problem is really how unholy and frost generate death runes. I think that they way that blood does it is much better. Basically, you should get more runes in order to use the abilities that are spec defining (Blood->HS, Frost->OB&HB, UH->SS). That would also work in an AoE situation where blood would use BB or HS, frost would use HB (and yes to increasing the damage on targets with FF, that would be nice), and unholy would use DnD along with spreading stronger diseases. I think that making strikes only one rune would work, but we’d need a better ability for that leftover rune sitting out there, other than more PS or IT. I can’t figure out a great way to do that, maybe have a talent in unholy that increases IT damage after a SS, or one in frost that increases PS damage after OB?

        Also I think Runic empowerment would probably work better if it generated a deathrune as opposed to just refreshing a random rune. Still without one powerful one rune strikes it seems blood and unholy would benefit more from that talent than frost would. Kind of odd there huh?

  10. Mark Miller says:

    Have you consider a build where you skip Howling blast in order to pick up a ghoul? A first glance it appears to be a strong build.

    Also can you confirm the existence of rune grace periods? Or has the new rune system account for this grace period.

    • Lawlknight says:

      We wouldn’t be able to go down far enough into the UH tree to get perma-ghoul as frost. However, I don’t think Howling blast will stay as our 31 point talent anyway, following the same logic that ret won’t get divine storm as a 31 point talent as it’s an AoE ability.

      The purpose of the rune grace period was to account for not hitting the rune ability right when it came up. But, now you aren’t wasting any recharge time on the rune as you have to wait 10 seconds for the second rune of that type to come up anyway.

      • Sag says:

        Since the talent trees are going to be revised we don’t actually know that yet. Though currently you are correct. Any idea on when these new trees are going to come out, aside from soon(tm)?

    • Mitranim says:

      Blue quote: “The other trees darken and are unavailable until 31 points are spent in the chosen tree.” This means you won’t be able to skip on 31-point talents in their respective trees.

      • Consider says:

        31 points doesn’t mean you have to get the 31 point talent.

        That said, I can’t imagine passing up on HB for Ghoul ever. Even if it does remain physically possible, it’s unlikely it’s worthwhile.

  11. Casja says:

    Howling Blast is too iconic of a ability to skip it in favor of a ghoul. I really like the idea of HB being a smart ability that skips CC’ed targets but the reason that works for wandering plague is because WP is purely passive while HB is a chosen talent.

    I think making HB a arcane missle type proc could work as it would combine rime and HB talents to help shrink the trees. And the idea of X amount of dmg to target and Y amount to all targets in a 5 or 10 yrd radius. The way this could work is I believe that i read in a blue post the reason they wanted to bring back CC is to make mobs more managable for tanks. With a 30 sec window to use a HB/rime proc you are still able to hold it untill the CC can be broken while being able to single target as need be.

    • Sag says:

      I agree, though I wonder about how long mobs will be standing these days. Given that there is a HUGE dps boost by 82, let alone 85, how does it compare to stamina scaling. As it is right now after IT-PS most regular (non-elite) mobs are dead for me. I might get in pestilence, if I don’t crit. Will this be how things are at 85? I’m not in end game raiding gear. I think my highest item in my DPS set is 251, oh wait I have a 264 pvp belt, the 251 item is the pvp shoulders.

      Where this was going was, during that 30 second window are we sure that the elite mobs will die? Took a while to get to that point, and blizz can adjust buff times. Since lvl 85 isn’t available on beta we’ll have to ask Consider that when it is. Something to keep thinking about though.

  12. Minaka says:

    Not related to the topic, Consider, but a new Beta build has apparently been released. MMO-Champion should be posting updates on that in just a little bit.

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