The Latest – The Greatest
September 22, 2010 95 Comments
Consider this my typical post-patch commentary. It’s been delayed a couple of days, but that’s because I’ve been busy actually playing the beta – a lot of these changes need to be experienced to be properly appreciated.
Suffice is to say, this last patch was great, and probably the best (for Unholy) since the start of beta.
Where to begin!
Unholy DW is, essentially, dead, or nerfed enough to not be a threat to 2H Unholy for the foreseeable future (meaning up to 85 in blues; who knows beyond that with raid itemization yet known). The loss of Necrosis hits dual-wielding incredibly hard – much moreso than the removal of Dirge did. Remember, Unholy damage can essentially be split into four categories: pet damage, yellow spell damage, yellow strike damage, and white auto-attack damage. The first two are, for the most part, weapon independent (SD’s impact aside). The third category grossly favors two-handers, of course, and the fourth category leans heavily towards dual-wielding. Necrosis was a huge boost to that last slice of the pie, and with it now gone (on top of the introduction of Runic Corruption), the pendulum of balance shifts back where it belongs. I would still like to see Sudden Doom changed to a proc-per-minute system or some such thing, which would safely guarantee Unholy DW dead for the remainder of the expansion, but for now, the loss of Necrosis does enough. One monkey off the class’s back!
Runic Corruption is amazing. No, it doesn’t help our GCD problems (which are as bad as ever), unfortunately. In fact, it makes them worse when you factor in the runic power cost reduction aspect of the talent! But aside from that (which is an issue I’ll go into later on in this entry), it’s perfect. It’s what Runic Empowerment should have been! The proc, over time, simply gives you additional Scourge Strikes and Festering Strikes (thus also giving more Death Coils, meaning more Runic Corruption procs, meaning more Scourge Strikes and Festering Strikes, meaning more Death Coils… so on and so forth!) by giving you a burst in rune regeneration. What makes it so superior to RE is one essential fact: it affects all three runes at once in an equal proportion. This means no messing with double-rune strikes and/or promoting PS/IT usage. This means no rune desynching or death rune desynching (the latter being the more real problem). This means the proc is pure bonus and no drawback, which is what a proc should be! You should want to use it when it happens, and not question if you’re doing the right thing or if you’re just going to mess yourself up in the long run. You should want to use the abilities the proc makes available, and not put spells on your bars which do laughable damage and which you wouldn’t ever remotely contemplate anyways. Runic Corruption is perfect, and if there’s one thing Blood and Frost needs, it’s something along the same lines – not necessarily the exact same talent (although it would work great), but something which solves the same problems and has the same lack of drawback.
The disease change isn’t a big deal for Unholy. Festering Strike still extends them by long enough that you never have to use Plague Strike or Icy Touch (save when switching mobs around CC or when you go from mob to mob too quickly). For Frost, it’s a huge bother. Perhaps they should just balance Frost around a single disease (FF) which you then maintain with Rime procs? In a world where you’re not GCD capped, you would still use Outbreak for the free dot once a minute, but if you made the disease coefficient lower on Obliterate, then you wouldn’t bother the rest of the time. I don’t know; all I do know is that the current setup is quite awkward, and essentially mandates three points in Epidemic.
Necrotic Strike I won’t comment on much, as I try to stay away from PvP matters. I’m still of the opinion it would be better off costing runic power; not only would it make it easier to balance (you can tweak it from 10 RP to 100 RP, whereas with runes it’s from one to… two? Plus, you’re pitting its damage/utility against DC/FS/RS, not SS/Oblit/DS), it wouldn’t orphan Frost runes for Blood and Frost. But, alas, not my area of expertise, so what do I know?
One of the best, if most appreciated, aspects of this patch was all of the additional PowerAuras. Now, yes, this is something which could have been replicated with an add-on anyways, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that it’s an excellent feature which will be appreciated by what is probably the majority of players who either don’t use add-ons or don’t use them if they don’t have to. Before this patch, with the default UI, keeping track of Shadow Infusion stacks (and thus when to use Dark Transformation) was a nightmare. Your only option was to actually target your pet – the buff wouldn’t show on the default pet frame or on the focus frame – and it should be rather self explanatory how horrible an option that is! The new poweraura makes it a piece of cake, and the inclusion of KM is equally excellent.
On to another area: Frost, and the nerf to its mastery on top of the change (buff, in terms of damage) to Killing Machine. The first is a numbers change, which I think is still a bit too early to do (for Frost, at least), but am otherwise indifferent to. Numbers are numbers, and I’m sure the end results will be balanced enough. The KM change is much, much more interesting. The removal of Howling Blast is understandable; a guaranteed crit on an AoE without cooldown is a bit too much. It doesn’t really address the central issue of HB (that being that its incredibly difficult to balance an ability which is AoE but is forced into our single target rotation; see Whirlwind for reasons why!). The addition of Obliterate, however… interesting. It’s clearly a buff – Obliterate hits harder than anything else, DW or 2H, but what’s interesting about it isn’t what it does to your dps, but what it does to your playstyle. Because KM is better spent on Obliterate, and because you can control FS usage more than you can Oblit usage, you’re going to want to prioritize FS over Oblit until a KM proc comes up or until you have your second set of runes 1.5seconds or less from refreshing. This is different than the old KM where you don’t actually have to react to it (aside from using KM before a Rime HB). I’m probably not putting it into words very well – in fact, I know I’m not – but it’s a large shift to how one treats the proc. Whether it’s a good change or a bad one is debatable (my opinion being the latter with the current RE for various reasons). It also takes away from the theme of the spec (which, on top of the mastery nerf, is a bit strange), but that’s beside the point.
And, finally, we come to Blood. There’s nothing to say here except that the Death Strike buff is most welcome for dps. I would still like to see a bit more accessible self-healing for dpsers; something comparable in potency and ease of use to Recuperate or Victory Rush, at least for solo-purposes. But, in the meantime, the DS buff works – just use it on critters you pass when going from mob to mob or npc to npc!
All in all, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Unholy this patch – more than I have this entire beta thus far, and certainly more than on live. If Blizzard can work out the GCD issues (hint; change UP/FP for starters! Huge imbalance there), then I dare say the spec is nearly perfect. It would be nice for them to slim down the tree slightly and do something to Virulence, but otherwise, it’s perfect.
Frost and Blood on the other hand… not so much. Another subject for another day, as they say!