Hypotheticals – Frost First
August 3, 2010 75 Comments
Let us say that tomorrow was Ghostcrawler’s birthday. Now, I don’t know how old GC actually is, but I imagine he’s somewhere in his 30s (give or take). According to Google, that’s the sort of age which most species of crab would never meet, as their lifespan is apparently a mere 15-20 years. So, his birthday would be a rather big deal, would it not? It would be record breaking, in fact! Having been a marine biologist, GC knows as much and, being the fun loving guy that he is, decides to invite all of the various Cataclysm class delevopers and designers to a party on his yacht. Now, he knows that things might just get wild and out of control, so he does the most responsible thing he can think of: He picks a random person of each class to formulate a patch’s worth of beta changes (for their specific class) and see how the forums react to them.
Let’s pretend that in this hypothetical I was the one to be given the reigns to the DK class for the duration of a single beta build. I had to refine (not define or rebuild) the class and keep to Blizzard’s stated vision and intent.
What would I do?
Consider this, pun intended, a rough draft.
Obviously I wouldn’t just start randomly changing this and that, left and right, to see how people respond. I would have some sort of plan, which would be based on the current problems of the class (both acknowledged by Blizzard or otherwise overwhelmingly perceived by the playerbase). It would make for a checklist which looked something like this:
- Ensure the class used the majority of our globals, but wasn’t capped in ordinary circumstances.
- Eliminate any redundancies in our abilities.
- Ensure each ability has a clear purpose in the scheme of the specs.
- Ensure no two abilities were too similar.
- Ensure both specs were less static than they are currently.
- Maintain Frost’s slightly more “proccy” nature relative to Unholy’s more predictable one.
- Ensure Frost still adhered to its themes of heavy Frost damage, physical damage, procs, runic power generation, and attack speed.
- Ensure Unholy still adhered to its themes of heavy Shadow damage (via spells and strikes), diseases, pets, and ‘anti-magic’.
- Although the focus at this stage of beta is PvE, try to ensure there aren’t any major repercussions for PvP.
- Can’t be said enough, but refine the class. Not remake it. Not redesign it. Fix it and enhance it with as few and as “simple” changes as possible.
Note: I wouldn’t be focusing on specific talents, but rather the general playstyles and feel of each spec. Talents are easy to make and unmake, easy to mold to a specific need or desire. The overall gist of a spec is far more important.
With all of that in mind, where would I take the trees?
For those who didn’t catch the self-leak on twitter:
That’s how I picture the Frost playstyle ending up. But how did I get there, and what does it all mean? That’s the real matter of importance, so working from left to right, top to bottom –
Having to both Plague Strike and Icy Touch in PvE is moderately redundant. The fact of the matter is that 98% of the time, we’re going to want to apply both diseases. There’s just little-to-no reason to apply one but not the other. On top of this already existing problem, Blizzard went ahead and introduced Outbreak, a means of applying both diseases at once… the catch being the lengthy cooldown and lack of damage.
Tackle all of these issues at once. Relegate IT and PS strictly for PvP (where you will want to use only one but not the other fairly regularly). In doing so, you could adjust their damage as needed, and give them various side effects (for instance, why not just combine CoI in its new state with IT?). Make Outbreak the primary source of disease application for PvE. It’s easy to do; make it cost UF (with a talent in Unholy converting it to BU). Make it do something like 150% weapon damage (or the equivalent AP coefficient, if it were still a spell) without a disease modifier – or whatever number is enough so that it gives Blood some sort of initial aggro while at the same time making sure it’s clearly lower than DS/Oblit/FeS. Remove (or severely lower) the cooldown.
The advantages are pretty obvious, and what drawbacks are there? None, that I can see. It just makes no sense to have the specs using PS, IT, and Outbreak to apply diseases in PvE. This solves that, and then some.
[Runic Empowerment DC]
Let’s face it; the current iteration of Runic Empowerment is pretty much a failure. It eats up too many additional GCDs. It’s terribly difficult to make use of without an add-on. It doesn’t meld well with double-rune abilities. It promotes IT/PS use when you don’t have to apply diseases. It’s a bit too RNG – although the proc itself has a decent chance, you then have to remember that you have three totally different reactions pending which rune it brings up (and the ongoing fallacy on EJ and elsewhere that Unholy, at least, can guarantee it procs its namesake rune by specific tailoring of the rotation is completely wrong due to Sudden Doom interaction).
I’ve tossed out a variety of means to fix it in the past, but came up with a new view the other day while playing my Night Elf Mage.
Take Runic Empowerment. Take Rune Strike. Give it the Arcane Missiles treatment, talents and all.
For those who don’t keep up on mages, Arcane Missiles is being redesigned in Cataclysm. It will have a 30% chance to proc on any offensive spell. Each tree then adapts this proc to its specific needs. The arcane tree, understandably enough, empowers it – it increases the damage of AM, it provides an ability (Arcane Barrage) which guarantees an AM proc, so on. The fire tree converts it – instead of fire spells proccing AM, when three of your fire spells crit within 6 seconds of one another, your next Pyroblast is instant. The frost tree also converts it – instead of frost spells proccing AM, frost spells have a chance to proc an instant mana-free FFB/FB.
RE is problem-ridden as already stated and between the avoidance nerfs, lack of “Icy Slam” and the damage gap between it and DC, RS is shaping up to be an issue for tanks. So here’s what I propose: Scrap Runic Empowerment and make RS it’s replacement; give all rune-based abilities an X% chance to proc RS’s availability. Adjust RS’s damage as appropriate, of course.
Then take each tree and have it adapt the proc to suit its needs. Since RS has always been a fixture of tanking, not to mention Blood places an emphasis on physical damage, let Blood treat RS like Arcane treats AM. Give it talents which boost the damage. Give HS or heals or whatever an increased chance to proc it. So on.
But, of course, I’m currently talking about Frost – for Frost, give a talent which eliminates the chance for rune-based abilities to proc Rune Strike. Instead, Obliterate has an X% chance to cause your next Death Coil to be RP Free and deal Shadowfrost damage instead of Shadow. Would fit perfectly into the various themes of the Frost tree, and give it automatic talent/mastery support.
For Unholy… well, you’ll see what I would do with the proc for them later!
Suffice is to say though, done right, this could be such an interesting and integral aspect of the class which mixes rotations up – which was the idea of RE, before it fell on its face!
Although adapting Runic Empowerment into the sort of proc I mention above would solve a lot, it wouldn’t fix the GCD problem developing.
Make Frost Strike work off of a “Ferocious Bite” model, where it will consume additional runic power (up until a specific amount) beyond the stated cost, thereby increasing the total damage done by a certain percentage.
It could be done in two ways: where it’s optimal to hit FS when you’re at whatever the max RP cost is, or whenever you’re at the minimum RP cost. I tend to think the former would be superior; it would ensure you had free GCDs, still let PvPers do the damage on demand as they saw fit, and still give you the option of dumping RP on FS even if it wasn’t optimal over the long run if it superior short-term.
The latter (optimal when at the min RP cost) could work, but it would keep you GCD capped – it would simply prevent you from wasting GCDs, and make it less punishing when you have to use one.
Either which way, easy enough to implement.
KM’s great and all, the only issue with it is that anything which guarantees a crit automatically lowers the value of crit to a spec. Simply change it to 50% increased crit chance and 25% increased damage of your next Frost Strike, or some such nonsense. Or, perhaps, play it off the new Frost Strike design – “Increases the crit chance of your next FS by 50% and causes it to do damage as if it were to consume an additional X runic power, but without actually doing so”.
It’s fixture of the spec, so I wouldn’t want to see it too changed, but 100% crit is just inherently problematic for stat weights. Not a huge deal, though.
I’m sure you’ll have noticed the cooldown box at the bottom.
For PoF, change it to runic power. A single frost rune is just a pain for a spec which doesn’t use frost runes by themselves. Huge inconveience, but simple fix.
Raise Dead, for Frost, functions just fine. No need to touch it.
Army of the Dead is a bit “whacky” at the moment. It does a sizable amount of damage over its duration (and has a cooldown to match), but it’s a pain to use – aside from on the pull or during specific phase changes, it’s rather limited. You could always have it put a 4 second buff on you which prevents you from parrying/dodging, decreases damage taken by your parry + dodge, and summons a ghoul every X seconds as it currently does – in other words, keep it as is, but without it interrupting your gameplay. Alternatively, you could simply allow us to attack while it’s channeling, similar to what Enhance Shamans will be able to do with Spiritwalker’s Grace. Very iconic and potent ability, just a bit annoying in actual use.
ERW is great for its intended purpose – fixing your rotation if you mess up, allowing you to get runes on demand for PvP/tanking/dps-utility usage, and what have you. But as a cooldown, it’s a bit lackluster considering it can throw you off your rotation just as easily as “restart” it. Simply tack on a +10% damage for 10 second buff (numbers tweakable, of course). DKs could do with a little bit more burst in PvE, and in PvP it would come at the cost of sacrificing utility later on.
Everything I didn’t mention – current RP generation rates, frost presence, etcetera – I would leave untouched.
So, in summary, what would that do to the Frost playstyle?
Basically what the picture says!
Although you would use each ability for its own personal damage, that alone makes for a rather dull class. Instead, everything would play into something else:
- You would use Outbreak to apply diseases, which are naturally fundamental.
- You would use Blood Strike to make use of Blood runes and to convert them to Death runes for Obliterate.
- You would use Obliterate to proc Rime and to proc “RE DC”.
- You would use Frost Strike to burn RP and manage your free GCDs.
- You would auto-attack to proc KM to benefit your FS.
So on. The trees could easily be made to fit such a rotation and playstyle, and it’s a rotation/playstyle which I, personally, think would better the spec (and the class).
At any rate, as I said in Twitter, I did unfortunately run (way) too long, and thus am going to leave Unholy for another entry (tomorrow; if I do it right now, many people will miss this post since it won’t be on the front page). That, and the changes to Unholy are a bit more extensive (in some ways, not in others – I don’t mean to be cryptic, but you’ll see!).
Although I always enjoy comments and normally get a healthy amount, I am especially interesting in feedback to this entry, so post away, lurkers and others alike!