Capped – Yeah We Are

For those who aren’t already aware and thus I must safely assume live under rocks, yesterday Ghostcrawler answered a slew of Death Knight related questions and issues. Although it certainly wasn’t everything we possibly wanted to know  – which would have been quite unrealistic for him to type up – it was a series of excellent posts, just the sort that we’ve been waiting for these past couple months. If you haven’t already read these writings, I would highly recommend going ahead and doing so now.

Essentially, he hits six main points:

  • 2H Frost is indeed still intended to be viable.
    • Which wasn’t really in doubt, but is still good to know!
  • DW Unholy is not intended to be taking over the tree.
    • Once again, no real comment necessary, except thanks. It will be interesting to see how they tackle this issue – simply nerfing/changing/removing Sudden Doom isn’t sufficient at this point.
  • Pestilence wasn’t intended to be an AoE so much as a means of preventing us from having to tab PS/IT constantly. Unfortunately, the damage makes it difficult to balance, and although they aren’t thrilled with the 50% mechanic, they aren’t really thrilled with any of their options.
    • Understandable. Tab PS/ITing isn’t the same as tab dotting; it’s much harder to do the first due to the melee limitations, not to mention the actually meaningful resource cost. There’s a few different ways Blizzard could take the skill while avoiding this issue (and also avoiding the current one of Pestilence being a single button wonder which deals 30k damage to all the mobs around you!), and I’ll delve into it tonight/tomorrow.
  • There are still too many passive talents.
    • Confirmation is godsend!
  • There’s nothing wrong with Icy Touch and Howling Blast hitting decently hard, as long as meleeing is more important for optimal damage.
    • Doesn’t quite address the Howling Blast single target/AoE conundrum, but it is nice to know they don’t mind it hitting decently hard in any which case.

All in all, excellent stuff.

You’ll notice, however, that I left out one big issue GC touched upon: us being GCD capped. He attributes it to the large remenants of haste we’re still likely to have on gear from Icecrown and the ArP conversion. Although that logic is sound enough, even at 0% haste, we’re still capped as bad as ever!

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Presumption – DKs Are Done

Edit: Since there was some confusion in comments, to be clear, this is just a “what if we really are done” sort of post, hence the added emphasis to assume. It’s not me actually thinking we are or losing confidence in Blizzard. I still believe we’ll be just fine in due time and that there’s no cause for worry but, if I turn out to be wrong and this is it, then this post is basically my sentiments on the matter.

Let’s just go ahead and assume that, yes, Death Knights are essentially finished in the eyes of the developers. Sure, they’re all but guaranteed to pass through our trees at least once more to eliminate or otherwise condense talents such as Improved Icy Touch and Virulence but, at this point, such talents aren’t even our largest, more demanding issues. And, yes, of course they’re certain to do a number tweak patch (consisting of more than a 5% nerf to Blood Strike) at some point between now and the end of beta. Then… nothing.

So, let us say that’s it – and what indications (few and far between they may be) we’ve received would say that, yeah, that is it!

That means we would go live with Runic Empowerment as is, with the Frost Presence/Unholy Presence discrepency as is, the AoE rotations (if one can call it that) as is, the contradictory nature of DRM and the Blood Mastery as is, and so on.

What would that mean for us?

It wouldn’t mean our dps/tps/survivability would be behind. That’s a number issue, and is thus independent of everything else. Yes, our dps might end up being too low (or too high) regardless, but it won’t be because of any thing else but the number pass itself. Think of it this way: you could have a rotation which consisted of nothing but spamming Blood Boil every single GCD, and although that would be horrible in a million different ways, the numbers could still be just fine, potentially.

It wouldn’t mean our class would be unplayable. Mechanically, we function. Some things aren’t very user intuitive (AoE rotation for Frost/Unholy? Runic Empowerment?) or convenient (Tank CDs costing runes?), but that doesn’t mean that, at the end of the day, we couldn’t do our job. Of course we could – it just hearkens back to the numbers.

It wouldn’t mean that the class would be ruined for life. Of all classes, we know how much can change patch-to-patch. Just look at all the different stages Unholy DPS has gone through during Wrath: 0/32/39, Blood Subspec, Obliterate, 10-second Epidemicless, Reapingless variants, Frost Subspec, and so on. A patch can change a ton, so even if Cataclysm were to go live with us being in a less-than-desirable shape, there’s nothing to say 4.1 couldn’t turn it all around in a complete one-eighty.

But, obviously, there are some very real implications to us being “finished” as is, otherwise we wouldn’t be making such a big deal out of it. The question is, what are those actual consequences?

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Latest Blue – Uh, Ok

On the plus side, at long (long) last, we’ve finally received a DK-centric blue post!

On the down side… well, where to begin…

Mechanics that weren’t working have been changed up.

I assume this is in regards to the rune system and runic power generation changes? After all, those are the only real “mechanic” changes we have received.

The issue here is that the current rune system (and it’s RP produced) work just fine on live, so the claim is somewhat off. Yes, the current system wouldn’t have worked in Cataclysm, given new abilities and procs, but there hasn’t been much to live up to that promise of new abilities (Outbreak, which is far from necessary and in no way interesting) and new procs (Runic Empowerment, the current state of which is a nightmare and has yet to be commented on), so the different is negilible.

Besides, the new rune system has just as many issues as the old, at least when you look at in the overall picture of other beta changes, and thus isn’t some miracle, especially when many problematic aspects of the new rune system (such as rune costs for cooldowns or relative cost for non damage abilities) haven’t been adjusted as they were supposed to.

In fairness, the wording doesn’t state that they think they’ve actually fixed or solved anything, just that they’ve changed it!

Some boring, passive damage talents have been removed.

Very few (although, don’t get me wrong, I can’t help but love Blizzard for the removal of Desolation!).

In contrast, look at all the ones which remain: Improved Icy Touch, Annihilation, Corrupting Strikes, Morbidity, and Necrosis are as present (and as boring and passive) as ever.

Relative to the total number of talents available, we actually have more “boring, passive” increases in the new trees than we do in the Wrath ones, which is quite ironic considering half the intent of shrinking the trees was to do the exact opposite.

Overall we didn’t feel the need to replace talents like say Rime, Dirge or Killing Machine

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Delusions – New Rune System

If there’s one good thing which has come from our complete lack of official feedback it is that it has caused people to examine and re-examine our issues over and over again, and although there haven’t been any startling revelations or sudden epiphanies regarding how to resolve our present beta issues (and I wouldn’t expect any to come at this point), more discussion – even if it doesn’t always help – certainly can’t hurt. Just over the past weekend there’s been half a dozen threads (which, for the most part, are all relatively productive) discussing and debating our current state and various means by which our problems could be alleviated.

There is, unfortunately, one line I’ve seen stated in every single one of these discussions; some variation of “the new rune system is broken”. Sometimes it’s simply assumed as truth as the poster then “demands” a revert to the old system or some complete and utterly unnecessary reworking of the new one, while other times it’s just blatantly declared broken without any explanation or logical argument.

I’m sorry to ruin the party but, no, our new rune system is not in any way inherently flawed.  Any of the numerous faults people like to mistakenly credit to the system all come from some other change to the class:

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Build 12803 – Mind Boggled

I had actually dozed off shortly before the patch was revealed and subsequently torn apart by Mmo-champion and others, so consider my delight when I see that we actually had some changes in the latest build. Then consider my disappointment when I actually saw what they are:

Death Knight

Blood

  • Blood Strike – Deals an additional 10% (down from 12.5%) damage for each of your diseases on the target.

Frost

  • None

Unholy

  • Raise Dead – No longer requires Corpse Dust.

My feelings on these changes could best be summed up in three letters. I’m sure you can guess which ones they are!

It’s one thing not to get anything new or interesting in a patch. Hey, if anything, we’re used to that by now! But to get a change which is nothing but a numbers tweak? Even if we were at that stage in our tuning (which we most certainly are not, considering the literal dozen of issues we’ve had since the start of beta and which have only gotten worse, for the most part), what in the world does a 2.5%/disease nerf to Blood Strike accomplish? It doesn’t affect Blood at all, generally speaking, and it hardly affects Frost or Unholy – less than a 1% dps loss for either of the two. Even if we’re solid enough to have our dps balanced, I highly doubt we’re a mere 0.5% over whatever we should be at. Being a numbers guy, I can tell you without a doubt the difference between Frost and Unholy themselves are greater than that number.

What’s somewhat amusing is I was planning on making a post this evening on why people need to relax and not worry since they’ve been getting so riled up as of late. So much for that. Perhaps my reaction to this latest patch is a bit over the top, but it’s the patch on top of the utter lack of blue feedback on top of problems which have been around since the very start of beta on top of issue after issue after lack of dev feedback after lack of dev feedback which makes one so frustrated!

Compare to any other class by any objective, quantifiable metric – number of blue posts received, number of class changes received, current number of bugs/flaws, etcetera – and it’s very apparent this isn’t simply a case of “woe is my class, Blizzard is favoring everyone else”. We *have* received less than others in terms of actual feedback and actual changes, and we *are* more fault-ridden.

A simple blue post saying “yeah, we understand and agree, you guys just haven’t had your time yet” or “yeah, we apologize, but we simply don’t agree you all need what you believe” would ease my mind and those of most DKs in so many ways. Yes, either response is going to give some negative backlash from some portion of the DK community, but the same can be said for any blue post for any class. That’s no reason to punish the masses and ultimately hurt the development of the game (since beta testers can’t give solid feedback if they don’t have a clue what in the world is going on) because some minority may over-react or give you a hard time.

New Abilities – Why Not Steal

This week has been quite uneventful, to say the least! No new beta build. No Death Knight related blue posts (although ones for every other class!). Nothing promising from the multiple interviews coming out of Gamescon (“No further major class changes are planned for the beta. From here out it will be primarily tuning,” for example, can’t be good for us, although what is tuning and what’s a major change is a matter of opinion/semantics, I suppose). And then, on a personal level, I’m still dealing with my new computer, not to mention I’ve been totally caught up in another project, which has made my posting quite sparse.

But, hey, such is life. Simply have to think positive!

A new beta build is almost guaranteed to hit this coming week (and it should contain Archaeology, of all things). DK-related blue posts will happen at some point in the future, certainly. Even if nothing “major” is planned for any class, it’s rather unarguable that we’re in destined for many “tweaks” and general “tuning”. On the personal level, my new computer should be finished which means I’ll be able to stream/fraps regularly (current comp just can’t handle it, not with fluent play at any decent level of quality).

Things shall turn around, but in the meantime, there’s not much for us to talk about which hasn’t already been discussed to death over the past two months or so that we’ve gone without any serious solutions to our issues – I mean, the beta DK thread is currently debating runeforges, of all things!

So why not have some fun?

Let’s be honest – we didn’t get the most exciting new abilities for Cataclysm. Outbreak doesn’t do anything we can’t already do with existing spells; and it’s not even strong enough to replace that which we already have. Necrotic Strike is a bit on the different side, but it’s only of any real use in one aspect of the game, and even there, it’s going to wreck havoc on our playstyle with it’s single Unholy rune cost, not to mention healing absorbption won’t terribly differ from the equivalent damage in most cases. Dark Simulacrum is actually unique and pretty cool, so no complaints there. One for three, however, isn’t the greatest track record. And this is on top of the fact that we didn’t get any new talented abilities either (Pillar of Frost being little more than a renamed Unbreakable Armor).

Although it’s looking less and less realistic by the day, what if Blizzard decided we really could use something unique and, just maybe, useful, too?

Now, obviously the sky’s the limit when trying to come up with new abilities. For every possible problem, there’s a hundred ways to address it, and for each way to address it, there’s then a hundred different variations as far as the specifics go. Thus, sometimes, it’s best not to come up with something new for to the game, but rather new to the player. In other words, steal NPC abilities and adapt them to fill a current hole in our arsenal.

It’s been done many times before, with Mage’s Flame Orb being one of the most recent and most recognizable instances of such a deed, so why not us?

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Incomplete – We Simply Are

This post raises an interesting (if entirely impossible, as I’ll explain) idea; that the reason we haven’t received many changes and literally zero feedback on the class is because we’re actually considered far along (or not needing much work) relative to other classes in the eyes of Blizzard and their developers.

After reading that, most people are probably going to react exactly as Tyds did in the first follow-up response; flat-out rejection! Something along the lines of “that’s ridiculous, you’re obviously wrong and we have to have more in store”. Such a response, although ultimately true, is utterly useless – the answer may be a simple no, yes, but stating that and nothing more doesn’t actually do any one any good.

If people aren’t concretely aware of the very real nature of our issues and how they conflict with Blizzard’s desire for the class/game, then they’re not going to be able to provide the best feedback.

Thus a proper response would answer these two questions: Why can’t we possibly be close to a finished state and what is it about the current design which flat out doesn’t work in actual game play?

Simple questions, yes, and ones which have been answered occasionally throughout the duration of beta, and so nothing in this entry may be considered new or exciting. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to review and summarize our issues periodically, especially since many of them have been around since the start of beta, while others are late comers to the party.

First off, our objective issues. These are problems which we know to be problems (meaning they conflict with Blizzard’s stated view of the class/game, or are otherwise play-impairing) and which are independent of one’s personal opinion (meaning they are provable beyond any sort of doubt):

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