AoE – Hypotheticals and Reality

As I’m sure many noticed in my Unholy and Frost write-ups, I conspicuously left out AoE. I didn’t do so because that area of the class needs any less work than the rest; I mean, I doubt there’s a single Death Knight – tanking or dps – who would disagree when I say that our AoE is all sorts of screwed up in the current beta build… and I don’t mean number-wise (although there’s no question that that aspect needs tweaking too!). Our multi-target rotations, if the current abominations even vaguely resemble such a term, are incredibly awkward. Try writing one out and you’ll quickly see that something just isn’t right.

I left it out because it can (and should) be fixed independent of our single target situation, that’s all. By that I mean these are changes that can (and should) be made regardless of whether your talking in my hypothetical trees or in the present-day reality. Unless they go and do something drastic (such as changing the rune system), everything in this post should hold true.

Anyways, before I go on, keep the following three simple facts of Cataclysm AoE in mind:

  1. Blizzard does not like “incidental” AoE and they don’t want it to be as present as it is currently. What this means is that abilities which are intended for multiple targets aren’t attractive on single targets. Basically, if you want your dps to go up when multiple targets are around, you should actually be doing something different. Free dps just because a second mob wanders by isn’t ideal (although some slight damage in such a scenario isn’t entirely horrible).
  2. Actual AoE “rotations” aren’t intended to be as complex as single target rotations. You aren’t going to be watching as many procs or hitting some complex weave of keys. This doesn’t mean all AoE needs to be as simple as Blizzard spam, but it does mean that you shouldn’t need an entirely different action bar when AoEing.
  3. AoE isn’t intended to be as prevalent as it is nowadays, nor as potent.

With that out of the way, in a nutshell, what I would do in terms of active changes:

  • Blood Boil -> Costs RP.
  • Howling Blast -> Costs RP.
  • DnD -> Cost BFU, cooldown a multiple of ten (i.e, 20 sec).
  • Pestilence -> Costs nothing, short CD (10 seconds?) added.
  • Corpse Explosion -> Costs BF.

The big question is what, exactly, are the present-day problems of each of these abilities and why, exactly, these problems warrant these specific solutions.

[Blood Boil]

For Blood, BB is horrible. It’s the main AoE skill, but since it’s tied to the new rune system it’s terrible for tanking – adds aren’t going to wait ten seconds to spawn because a rune isn’t up or whatever. It competes with Heart Strike, which is already a multi-target ability, Rune Tap, which is just as desirable when AoEing as it is for anything else, and Vampiric Blood, which should probably be changed anyways. For Unholy, it wrecks havoc with the new FeS/SS model. For Frost, it’s actually fine, admittedly.

It’s pretty self-evident, to me at least, that the cost needs to change, and making it runic power is thus the obvious answer to all of the aforementioned problems.

[Howling Blast]

A single Frost rune seems like a nice little buff, but it actually doesn’t serve any purpose beyond Runic Empowerment (which is another topic entirely). If anything, the cost change breaks the entire rotation – what do you do with the resulting Blood and Unholy rune? Blood Boil and… Plague Strike? Really?

On the other hand, however, the current live cost isn’t a ton better. Here we have Rime, one of the premier features of the spec which just so happens to proc Howling Blast, coming off of Obliterate… which, if HB costs UF, isn’t going to be used as much! Rather illogical, when one thinks about it.

Once again, changing it to runic problem solves all of the above and has no affect on single target play. Currently this wouldn’t work, because Frost is intended to be able to tank, and as a tank, you need to be able to burst AoE on the pull, and thus it kinda has to have a rune cost. This is no longer a factor in Cataclysm, however!

[Death And Decay]

The DnD cost of one Unholy rune was doomed for failure, honestly, for the same reason a single rune Blood Boil isn’t going to work out. If an ability is intended to be used by all three specs, it either has to cost RP, cost all three runes, or cost nothing. With Unholy’s rotation being in the position it currently is, anything else just causes issues. Obviously DnD isn’t the type of skill which can be free (if it was, it would then be used on a single target), and moving it to runic power wouldn’t play well for tanking (you need to be able to open with some sort of AoE ability, afterall). The three rune model works perfectly fine.

As for the cooldown, I’ve never understood it to be honest. I don’t mean to question why it has one – obviously it has to – but why 30/15 seconds. 30 seconds untalented is ridiculously long for how important the tool is for tanking. 15 seconds talented is fine in terms of power, but incredibly awkward in terms of rotation – with runes refreshing on a 10 second cycle, it just doesn’t play out very well. I would change the cooldown to 20 seconds and then rework Morbidity to do something other than touch the cooldown.

[Pestilence]

Like I said, I’m not focusing on the numbers… although it’s hard not to lament the Pestilence nerf in comparison to the introduction of the Soulburn: Seed of Corruption effect!

Instead, I’m narrowing in on the cost, and as with Blood Boil and DnD, a single rune (especially if that rune is Blood) just doesn’t work. In this case, however, I would simply make the ability resource-free (with a short cooldown if necessary). Honestly, just why not? With the ability not causing any direct damage and thus there being absolutely nothing to gain from spamming it, it wouldn’t cause any harm whatsoever. Plus, as a tank, you want to be able to spread diseases on streaming adds asap, and having to sacrifice actual damage to do so, although ultimately necessary, makes things a bit difficult.

[Corpse Explosion]

Bring back Corpse Explosion (or create some new AoE spell of a similar nature) for Unholy, and make it cost BF. They just have nothing unique to do in AoE situations otherwise.

In sum, how would these changes work out?

For Blood, they would simply substitute Rune Strike/Death Coil with Blood Boil, and Heart Strike + Death Strike for Death and Decay (whenever it was up). With Pestilence being resource free, Blood Boil being RP, and DnD having a shorter cooldown without requiring a talent in another tree, they would have plenty of options for picking up adds without undue burden (or unreasonable ease). As far as unique abilities go, they would naturally have talents buffing Blood Boil, and Heart Strike’s cleave effect would be a core feature.

For Frost, they would simply substitute Frost Strike with Howling Blast on cooldown, Frost Strike with Blood Boil (when HB is down), and Blood Strike + Obliterate with Death and Decay (whenever it’s up). With Howling Blast no longer competing with Obliterate they would be able to actually still have Rime proccing when AoEing, as only makes sense.Howling Blast is, quite obviously, Frost’s unique AoE ability, and already has plenty of support in the form of talents such as Killing Machine.

For Unholy, they would simply substitute Blood Boil with Death Coil, Festering Strike with Corpse Explosion (or whatever) on cooldown, and Festering Strike + Scourge Strike with Death and Decay (whenever it’s up). No issues caused. Corpse Explosion would be the unique AoE ability, and you could always completely rework it to something else (i.e, causes your Blood Plague and Frost Fever on the target to instantly erupt, dealing damage equivalent to a tick of each to all mobs within Y yards), so long as the cost stayed BF.

And, of course, Pestilence would just make quality of life nicer for all.

Like I said at the beginning, this is all “active” stuff. You could add passive talents – like BB leaving a dot for Blood, for instance – with ease, but first the actual playstyle issues need to be addressed, and I believe the above does as much (without introducing a slew of new abilities or raidically changing pre-existing ones).

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29 Responses to AoE – Hypotheticals and Reality

  1. Insolence says:

    If they don’t change BB’s cost I hope they’ll at least change DnD’s cost to FU, or else we’ll have the same situation as now with AoE (even if it’ll be more limited); DnD – IT – PS – Pest – Downtime.

    Above is also assuming they don’t change Pest’s cost

    Good post btw, i like some of the changes you’re proposing, although if I worked for Blizz I’d also have to confess that the chances of getting BB and HB to be RP Based seem rather bleak….

    • Consider says:

      DnD being FU doesn’t work because of Unholy.

      I really don’t see how BB/HB costing RP would cause issues or be undesirable from Blizzard’s point of view. The numbers would be balanced accordingly, of course, all that would change is how the fit into the greater picture – which is to say it would make a lot more sense and be much easier to use than their present forms.

      • Insolence says:

        The way I see it Blizz is afraid of making too many abilities cost RP, if they do it’ll really limit down our choices as to what to use Runes on, for example Blood Runes, if BB costs RP as Blood only thing you’ll have left to spend Blood Runes on is HS, no brainer, no “choice” since I don’t quite see Blood with FS.

      • Consider says:

        That’s funny. If anything, I would say we have too few abilities costing RP, not too many! As far as Blood Runes specifically go, isn’t the choice between HS, RT, and VB plenty?

      • Insolence says:

        Well VB for 90+% of the Tanks is probably bound to Blood Tap, that leaves Rune Tap which does heal, however it’s Threat compared to that of HS is weak, so if it came down to causing Damage/Threat rather than Self-Healing only option left would be HS, in both Single-Target and AoE Situations.

      • Consider says:

        In Cataclysm, Blood Tap is better off spent on Bone Shield, not Vampiric Blood. Three options!

        Besides, even if you ignore the Blood situation entirely, think about Unholy. You BB/Pest with Blood runes, SS with Unholy runes… and do what, exactly, with Frost runes? Icy Touch? Or do you just forgo SS entirely and Obliterate? Messy situation either way.

  2. gravity says:

    I’ve often wondered by they don’t just roll Pestilence and Blood Boil together into a single ability (like Pest used to be, in a way). I presume you thought about that too. Why did you dismiss the idea?

    Because of Scent of Bloods interaction with large AOE pulls, DK tanks might need a short internal cooldown on an RP-based blood boil, so we remain AOE-nerfed as Blizzard intended.

    • Consider says:

      For a few reasons. One, even if you rolled Pest and BB, that wouldn’t fix the cost-related-issues of both abilities. Two, there are some times (not many, but some, I suppose) where you want to spread diseases but not immediately do damage – such situations may be somewhat more frequent with the return of CC. Three, Pestilence used to do damage and was removed for reasons. Four, I have to assume there’s a reason they’ve held back from rolling the two together (despite how nice it would be) for so long. Five, it would make for an enormous tooltip!

      As for SoB + BB, you could always just roll back the potency of Crimson Scourge and the like. But yeah, a short (3 seconds would be sufficient, meaning you could use it, at max, every other GCD) CD would work relatively well.

  3. Insolence says:

    For the most part (haven’t had a chance to really test this due to Class Trainers still being bugged) won’t we probably get a random Runic Empowerment Unholy Rune often enough to be able to hit BS (not instantly as soon as its off CD for sure) at some point after its up though?

    You’re quite right about the Unholy Situation, FeS needs some tweaking for AoE, or maybe a new Ability Entirely. Or even another 3 Mob Cleave like HS’s? Meh bit too much C/P Design though…..

    Otherwise yes i do agree we could use Runic Power to a greater extent beyond just RS DC and FS, need to figure out a way to do that without reducing our Rune-Based Ability Choices too much though.

  4. Disargeria says:

    My name is Communism and I approve of all of the above.

  5. Aku says:

    Excellent write-up!

    I really hope they revert the Pestilence nerf though.

  6. Vegah says:

    I love you! Everything you write in your blog seems just so right and well thought to me, I wish you were DK class designer at Blizzard.

  7. frostfright says:

    I like what you did, especially with Pestilence. Making it free really would help Blood immensely, even if it did have a short cooldown. Making sure diseases are up for full damage strikes is important.

    I think Howling Blast is going to be problematic as it is now, and even your ideas don’t really change that. It’s an oft-used spell that does massive AOE damage for free, basically. Making it cost RP doesn’t change that, and will only ensure that we substitute it in for Frost Strike on cooldown in any cleave situation. I’m afraid they’re going to overhaul the spell entirely because right now it’s the exact kind of incidental AOE that they’re focusing on removing, which sucks because it’s a very interesting and fun spell, and when combined with Killing Machine, is just awesome. But it goes against their game design.

    DnD I agree needs to be three runes. Having it as a single rune ability just ensures its use on single targets for DPS (especially for Frost, whose Unholy rune empower basically results in a Plague Strike or Necrotic Strike). 20 second cooldown would be great at base, and Blood could sorely use it. But if they’re going to keep Consecrate at 30 seconds, I don’t expect DnD to be any different.

    I’ll be honest, the idea of more things to spend RP on is intriguing. In Wrath, we basically had 3 legitimate RP dumps – one to each spec. Death Coil, Frost Strike and Rune Strike were the only things we would ever spend it on, and that’s pretty static design. It’s something that I expect to change, and since we have so many buttons already, putting old abilities on RP is something I consider to be highly likely.

    Great post as always, love reading them, Consider! And if Death Knights ever got Defile, I would do whatever it took to have it. Defile is awesome.

    • Leodar says:

      I thought that was the point of some of the changes in Cataclysm.
      Ability X in multiple mob pulls.
      Ability Y in single target situation.
      X fails against single target, Y fails against multiple mobs.
      You have to change your play based on the pull.

  8. Jonneh says:

    There is no denying the logic behind your arguments, quite clearly the costs for these abilities just don’t sit well with the specs they are intended for anymore.

    The cooldown on dnd is quite insane really, when you think about it. Similar abilities have a much lower cooldown looking at other classes (Consecrate), or no cooldown and a prohibatively high cost (FoN, Blizzard, Seed etc) to prevent spamming.

    When I think of DK AoE I think back to Anub’arak HC (watch in HD!) Now, forgive me for saying so but it was actually interesting. It was actually difficult! Alot of that came from the nature of rolling diseases at the time, but still.. its just a nice peak at better days.

    I can see the system you propose looking pretty similar to this really. The only issue I see is that we’re not really doing too much to alter our rotations. We’re kind of just substituting some runes for dnd every little while and using aoe’s instead of DC. Is that going to be different enough for blizzard?

    Looking at other classes in the beta, ones they have worked on, warriors use WW/cleave and forgo everything else until they have enough rage to use bloodthirst or w/e without missing a ww/cleave. I’m not actually sure if cleave is just a rage dump like Heroic strike now. In which case they’d use nothing but ww/cleave so long as there were enough targets. Paladins only use DS on multiple targets now, but it has a cooldown, so presumably they’d just continue to use combo attacks to build points and keep the self buff up, maybe do a big hit with it as well as normal. Sounds similar to what you propose for us.

    Will they like it, do they plan to do something similar? Who knows. Lets wait and see :/

  9. Branith says:

    my god I wish Blizzard would take your vision for class balance for our class and implement them. Instead we get crapped on and a thousand people devoted to making Paladins the main focus for this expansion.

  10. Anaroth says:

    Remember they’re changing a lot of the heavy ae spells especially for tanking classes.
    In that sense the desire is that it has a longish cooldown, especially for blood. And in that sense its actually rune cost is largely irrelevant, although given that there is no real ae moves using U and F runes that blood and unholy specs can make in some ways it probably makes sense to give it an UF cost perhaps with talents in blood to up the damage, and in unholy to reduce the cooldown.

    One thing you didn’t really touch on is the pestilence spread disease nerf. AFAICS the 50% penalty promotes a pretty silly play style if you’re intent on maximising your ae dps/threat. Outside of DnD and spreading diseases via pestilence, the probably best use of your runes is to tab target IT PS and BB for blood/unholy. If frost can put up full strength frost fever via Hungering Cold (or a glyphed HB) then it’s best DPS is the same with HB replacing IT. I think that ae then becomes very similar for all 3 specs, and tab targetting to overwrite diseases like that is pretty silly.

    The obvious fix is to lower unholy ae disease damage (say remove the 30% buff, and the 10% impurity buff), and buff it’s single target / direct target disease damage. (Give say festering strike a + disease damage buff, and/or make SS do disease damage). That also gives unholy the ability to a range of ae vs single target damage depending on the circumstances. Blood has the option of DS followed by 4 blood rune abilities, and Unholy the option of FS and then using the death runes for 2 x BB.
    The one weakness is that there’s no real ae use for a single unholy rune in this setup. A new spell could be added, or perhaps make the PS -> BB linkage from crimson scourge accessible to other specs.

  11. Leodar says:

    Really like the simplicity of your proposals.

    2 Ideas for the Unholy AoE ability.
    Ghoul Explosion – you raise a ghoul that explodes dealing X dmg to all enemies within 10 yards, increased by Y% for every disease on the target. (Think Black Knight encounter)
    Plague Eruption – Instantly deal X dmg to all enemies within 10 yards, increased by Y% for every disease on the target. This effect consumes diseases on the target, but refreshes disease duration on enemies within its area of effect.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I love your ideas. They make so much sense, I really hope someone at Blizzard takes note.

  13. Caeden says:

    Instead of ghoul explosion, a defile that grows to by X% per target to a maximum of the size of a DnD. I really just want to see us with the defile graphic. I’d be switching my offspec to unholy for sure.

  14. Leviatharan says:

    Well, for an Unholy-type AoE spell costing BF, it’d have to deal Shadow Damage meaning it would probably be put in the Blood tree (which is more about cosmetic effect in this context and really has no change to gameplay)… Time to browse the ICC spell list!

    Bloodbolt would be a nice choice, considering the splash damage it deals in each of its implementations, but I’m concerned it would be too much like a Shadow-damage HB…

    Unbound Plague might work, but it wouldn’t be allowed to be a disease; otherwise we’d use it as a fourth disease in our single-target rots!

    Pain and Suffering is a possibility, considering none of the DK AoE spells work on a Frontal cone. The short DoT it adds at the end even fits with the Unholy philosophy. Personal favorite, here.

    Defile… I don’t think that would work, actually, since its really just a DnD with a growth mechanic, although it would be slightly different if it had a bit of Desecration in it, slowing targets that stand in it (gotta work that Frost rune in somehow!)…

    • Leviatharan says:

      Personally, I’d like to see a sort of “Evil Divine Storm” for DKs, considering it’s the exact type of ability that Blizz seems intent on eliminating… without actually removing it… and if it’s the Pally WW, DKs should have one too, right?
      With a Chaos Bane effect. I can’t stop imagining the weird Divine Storm-spin followed by an army of ghosts attacking your target(s). Looks are just as important to me as numbers. Hence why I think they should update the look of Scourge Strike to have a ‘shadow’ effect to it. <..>

  15. Minaka says:

    Consider, the clip end of the antistatic wristband is supposed to be connected to a metal part of the computer case itself. Or an antistatic mat, if you have one.

  16. woohaa says:

    I’m afraid they’re going to overhaul the spell entirely because right now it’s the exact kind of incidental AOE that they’re focusing on removing

    This is actually not correct. HB is an instant, reactive spell, with a CD. you get a proc you push the button. what they mean by incidental AoE is like Fury wars and Paladins. They do the same rotation regardless if there’s extra mobs. But when there is extra mobs they get a huge dps increase. You could factor in Blood DKs into that but at a certain point you’d probably use BB over HS.

    I think each tree should have 1 Rune based and 1 RP based aoe ability. I know 2 attacks may seem alittle much but since we utilize 2 resources, we should have 2 aoe abilities. Rune based attacks innately have their on CD just from rune CDs. a high RP cost aoe ability also wouldn’t be spammable. The only thing they need to do is ensure both abilities are AOE abilities and not design them to be single target and get extra damage from secondary targets. This is why the new HS baffles me. Instead of changing the ability to 1 target…they added another target and completely ignored their own design goals.

    • Waylandyr says:

      The heartstrike change makes sense when you put it in perspective of it’s now a tank only skill, and puts DK tank cleave in line with the other tanking classes.

      I’ve wanted RP aoe abilities since they took away the real UB.

  17. Alrenous says:

    Other way round. Put DnD on RE and just take BB out of everyone else’s AOE.

    You don’t have to worry about adds spawning off the rune cooldown, since you can slam down DnD. But, you don’t have to worry about snap pull aggro as you’ve got BB.

    Would probably need to tweak something about BB’s disease interaction, though.

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