The “Feel” – Unholy v. Frost
July 25, 2010 49 Comments
Before I begin, to be clear, this post isn’t about the numbers. Not at all. Analyzing them at this point in the beta is rather pointless, which is why I’ve avoided doing so (although in some rare cases, it’s worth noting, such as in the oddity that still is Howling Blast).
Instead, I figured I would share my perspective on the “feel” of both Unholy and Frost after having done instance runs as both specs, and spending substantial time on the dummies to get an idea of how the specs would play out on extended encounters (which aren’t present in simple five mans, naturally). This is simply my take on how the specs flow in actual game-play.
Utterly unscientific, heavily subjective and opinionated, but hopefully an entertaining (and, perhaps, informative) read!
Unholy and Frost feel completely different in this regard, more so than many probably realize.
As Unholy, I pay next to no attention to my diseases. Epidemic and FeS keep them going for ages – approximately ~2minutes on average – and so they require no real thought or effort to maintain on my part. I apply them initially and then that’s it. 5 man fights, trash or boss, aren’t even long enough for you to have to worry about reapplying, and boss fights would only call for you to do so once or twice. It’s incredibly nice to be able to focus on your rotation, procs, cooldowns, and the like, instead of worrying about the hassle of diseases dropping at inopportune or inconvenient times (particularly important if you’re the sole source of the magic debuff in the raid). This is one of the best improvements to the Unholy playstyle, in my opinion. Just as Affliction Warlocks don’t have to worry about casting Corruption every 18 seconds and Shadow Priests don’t have to stop and refresh SW:Pain in the midst of their rotation, neither does Unholy have to spend a sizable chunk of its time (and focus) on its dots.
Frost, on the other hand, has you applying them as much as ever. It’s not fun. Outbreak doesn’t alleviate the problem – it makes it worse. Yes, Outbreak is free in the sense that it doesn’t have a resource cost and that it applies both diseases at once, but it’s incredibly expensive when you consider it’s costing you an entire GCD of absolutely no damage. Not just that, but it’s annoying to use; you obviously can’t use it for all of your disease application needs on a boss encounter – let alone 5 man trash packs, where you’re often switching targets (and Pest, which I’ll get to later, isn’t the best option in a world where CC actually matters).
I’m not saying anything needs to change for Frost (although lowering Outbreak’s CD or, at the least, offering a glyph which resets the cooldown whenever you make a kill granting exp/honor for solo purposes, would be most welcome). It’s simply a very noticeable contrast between the two specs; and it fits, flavor wise. Unholy is supposed to be about diseases – until now, all that’s actually meant is that they hit somewhat harder. Woo-hoo. Now that also means they’re much more convenient to maintain and less troublesome to worry about. It might not seem like a huge deal (after all, diseases aren’t truly difficult or anything like that), but it’s a very nice feature of the spec.
Unholy’s are much more natural to use – Unholy Frenzy is resource free and off the GCD, and Gargoyle’s resource cost isn’t near as obnoxious as Pillar of Frost’s single rune one. On the downside, Unholy Frenzy has the health hit and Gargoyle still does melee (although there are some new ways I’ve found to avoid it).
In Frost’s favor, PoF is more immediate in effect than either of Unholy’s CD, not to mention the shorter cooldown makes it easier to line up with other buffs.
I’ld say both specs are pretty equal in this regard (in terms of ease of use and “feel”, remember, not numbers – where PoF would clearly win 1-on-1). Each cooldown has it’s drawbacks and it’s upsides. Nice balance all around.
Both trees are just absolutely over-flowing with RP at the moment. Between the buff to Dirge/CotG and the unannounced buff (or bug?) with base runic power generation, each spec has more RP than it knows what to do with, and thus I can’t really compare them.
If I were to guess, either base RP generation was increased to phase out Dirge/CotG as talents or the base RP generation increase is simply a buff. I can’t imagine the two both being intended to exist and to coexist. If it does stay that way, then suffice is to say Frost 2H isn’t a possibility anymore – MotFW just isn’t necessary! – and Magic Suppression isn’t worth it for Unholy – you’ll be capped enough as is.
New Rune System
Honestly, due to the above runic power state of beta, I don’t even notice the difference in the rune system for either spec. Less rune abilities used, many more runic power abilities used. Just as many buttons pushed, but with the benefit that lag doesn’t hurt you (especially with instant ability queueing).
In normal play, death runes should affect both specs equally. More Obliterates for Frost, more Scourge Strikes for Unholy. Both predictable and reliable. Nothing special to note.
Currently, however, as I’m sure anyone following any DK beta tester already knows, death runes are severally bugged. They just don’t work; they appear in the natural purple, sure, but can’t actually be used for anything other than the normal rune beneath. Thus, in this bugged state it’s important to note that it gives Unholy an edge. You can just continue to use Festering Strike, which doesn’t actually have a negative effect on your rotation (it’s a positive one, if anything; less GCDs used and longer diseases). As Frost, the bug is a bit more crippling, as all you can do with the death runes is Blood Strike, which does screw you up (more GCDs used, combined with fewer Rime procs).
So, yeah, death runes you don’t really notice as Unholy. As Frost, it’s incredibly debilitating. It’s definitely a bug, however, so once it’s fixed, it should be a nonissue for both specs.
Despite the fact that RE still lacks any sort of notice or what have you… I haven’t had any issue with it as of late. Why? I just ignore it and use Oblit/BS or Festering/SS when I can, and RE simply expedites the opportunities to do so.
Yes, from a raw dps perspective, on paper, it would seem to be better to use the procs immediately on PS/HB/BS or SS/IT/BS as appropriate… but that’s only the case when you’re not GCD capped. Both specs are, and much worse than my (now dated) predictions showed, and thus you can just treat RE like it doesn’t exist, and do a priority system which doesn’t even have PS/IT (aside from actually applying diseases) in it.
Assuming they fix the global capped issues of the spec, then trying to use RE as it procs is a nightmare. I’ve tried. You just can’t do it, as stands. With no way to know when it will proc, what it will proc, or even that it procced, it’s just terrible and may as well not exist. Whatever else, there needs to be some sort of notification that it procced (and what it procced) – although, ideally, the ability will get some sort of tweaking in actual design.
Sudden Doom verse Rime. Oh, my.
SD is incredibly bland. You’re going to hit Death Coil regardless; all the talent does is make it free occasionally. You don’t actually have to change how you play 90% of the time, that other 10% being when it procs between two rune based abilities and an auto-attack would occur (and proc it again) after using the first and before the GCD of the second was up. In general, you just don’t have to pay it any heed. This would still be the case even if runic power wasn’t so prevalent.
Rime, on the other hand, actually makes you do something you wouldn’t normally do. Howling Blast just isn’t a part of a normal rotation, for obvious reasons, so using it mixes stuff up.
In this area, Frost easily wins. But considering that’s the design intention, not a bad thing!
How the mighty have fallen.
For lack of more elegant wording, Unholy plain sucks to AoE with! Even if DnD didn’t have it’s damage absolutely emasculated, even if Pestilence still spread diseases at full potency, even if Wandering Plague was no longer MIA, this would still be the case. Why? A couple reasons. First off, Pest and Festering do not synergize well. Short of counting to 30 in your head (or having an add-on, which you can’t), it becomes impossible to know when you need to spread diseases again! Secondly, our AoE rotation now matches our single target rotation save for two substitutions – BS for Pest/BB and SS for DnD. You could make a macro which DnD’d instead of SS’d when you held, say, shift, and you would then press the same buttons in the same order! Third, Jinx blows Pestilence + Ebon Plague out of the water! Don’t get me wrong; Warlocks (and Moonkin) needed a way to AoE their debuff or we needed to lose the ability to do so with ours. But Warlocks can do it so much more efficiently than us – first gcds of the fight instead of the second/third, 40 yard range from the mob instead of 15, doesn’t break CC, etctera.
Frost, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of these issues. You don’t have to keep track of diseases ticking at different times on different mobs. Your rotation actually changes by more than just substitutions but actual replacements. Your utility debuff can be spread equally as those of others.
Unholy, your supremacy in this regard will be missed!
With all of that in mind, it should come as no surprise when I say that Frost is much more enjoyable to play in five mans while Unholy has it beat when it comes to boss fights, dummy testing, and raw soloing. It would take very few, minor tweaks to level out those imbalances, and even if it wasn’t changed, such differences exist on live anyways.
I’m really leveling both specs, though. I’ve been a fan of 2H Frost since I first got into beta, and now Unholy is finally getting its groove back. Play wise, even with the bugs, both trees are (god forbid I say it) fun. Shocking, I know.
At this point, I would expect them to focus more on getting our trees up to snuff with the new talent philosophy, weeding out the bugs, making sure latecoming additions (such as mastery, which is currently out of the picture) don’t mess anything up, and then get to number balancing. I would be surprised if either Unholy or Frost were to get any heavy playstyle changes (aside from a simple nerf to runic generation, thus leading to a non-capped rotation, and hopefully a RE modification).
Things are really starting to shape up.