AoE – Hypotheticals and Reality
August 10, 2010 29 Comments
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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).