Blood – Some Thoughts
October 28, 2010 64 Comments
Typically, I try to stay away from writing on tanking matters. It’s not that I’m any less knowledgeable and informed of that aspect of the class/game; I tanked up until tier 9 on Consider, as well as having spent the entirety of Burning Crusade doing so on my druid, and in general just keep myself up to date on what’s what in regards to the role. Nor is it because I find tanking any less interesting or complicated than dpsing; quite the opposite, if anything, as tanks has to consider all the same things dps do, and then some. For every entry on a dps subject, there’s three of the same sort I could do for tanking!
The reason why I try to confine myself to dps is twofold; partially because there are many sources – notably Pwnwear – for high quality tanking Death Knight discussions already, and partially because (presumably) most of my traffic is likely dps oriented for one reason or another.
Unfortunately, all of that is rendered irrelevant by the simple fact that I’m currently locked out of my account on live (and none too thrilled about it), and thus am limited solely to beta! It’s past the point where there’s anything interesting to play and test on there in regards to Unholy (stats are imbalanced relative to one another, some bugs are annoying, and some mechanics – SI/RC proccing on hit, not cast – are obnoxious, but overall, the spec is pretty solid) or Frost (it has a lot of issues, sure, but the same issues have been around for months, and thus there’s little new to say on the subject!), and thus I’ve spent some time as Blood tanking in heroics and raids, and figure I may as well share my two cents. If such doesn’t interest you, I completely understand, and simply don’t continue reading! This is a one time deviation, I assure you.
Before I begin, in short: Blood DKs on beta are currently in a fantastic position, in near every aspect, and those individuals like the questioner at Blizzcon who was concerned about the viability of the spec (because people perceived him, as an individual, as bad, but that’s beside the point!) need not worry a bit. If anything, nerfs are needed, not buffs.
Not specific to Blood or to Death Knights, sure, but still worthy of mention. Simply put, I find Vengeance to be completely ridiculous! First off, it makes threat too easy. This is debatable, certainly, and perhaps it will matter in later tiers, but as it currently stands, you could manage just fine without the buff. Even if you couldn’t, getting near 10k+ AP is far from the most elegant way to solve threat issues! Secondly, the concept of tank threat scaling similar to dps damage scaling is great, except for the fact that Vengeance doesn’t fulfill that role. It scales with damage taken, which is utterly unrelated to damage done by dps, not to mention it gets worse as your gear improves. Something better would have been to make it increase your AP by, say, 2% of your max health whenever you dodge/parry, lasts X seconds, stacks Y times. That way it would actually scale positively with the tank’s gear… just as a dps’s damage scales with his or her gear. Third, it makes tank transitions annoying, as the previous tank has to pretty much flat out stand there and do nothing until his or her buff goes down. Not difficult, just rather boring. On top of all that, Vengeance leaves off-tank threat rather low (Vigilance solves this beautifully for Warriors, but the other three tanks are left in the cold) as you gain next to no AP, AoE damage and adds aside.
Don’t get me wrong, Vengeance is fun. It’s nice being able to do respectable dps as a tank, to such a point that you won’t ever outperform a competent dpser, but you will be able to roll past poor ones (particularly in five mans), and you’re dps will play a role in meeting enrage timers. It’s nice not to have sustained threat be the top concern of tanking, and instead focus more on self-healing, cooldowns, survivability, and the like. Vengeance is nice… but too much so!
It’s likely not going to (significantly) change at this point, and that’s fine. Its faults are more annoying or counterintuitive than actually game-breaking or functionality-impairing. It is what it is, and whatever else, that makes it enjoyable.
[Death Strike / Blood Shield]
The healing is quite potent – as it’s always been, but especially so now that you can hold off on runes (to an extent) without any undue cost of threat. The damage is great, and the fact that it’s in no way tied to diseases makes it a solid means of picking up adds as replacement for losing “Icy Slam”. The mastery is, of course, wonderful, although it scales with itself in an odd manner (although that only comes into play when you’re DSing within 5 seconds of the last one).
All in all, flawless.
Heart Strike is in a very odd place. It’s damage isn’t anything special on a single target; both Death Strike and Rune Strike handily beat it. On multiple targets, it competes with Blood Boil (which, yes, it may still beat for total threat up until something like 6 mobs, but in many cases less overall threat to all mobs present is superior to greater total threat to half the mobs). Two HS may outdamage one DS, but due to the heal/shield/diseasesless-nature, it’s still better to use death runes on the latter. Speaking of, HS is the only ability in our arsenal, aside from BB, which still requires diseases to do full damage.
For what has historically been the signature strike of the tree, HS is incredibly lackluster. It has absolutely nothing going for it, aside from an incredibly slight boost in threat when OTing…. which is almost always rendered meaningless because you’re still going to have to taunt to pull aggro off the main-tank with vengeance and, once you do, your previous threat won’t even matter!
Diseases are more of a nuisance than anything else. It’s not that they’re difficult to apply; simply replace a DS with a PS+IT every 60 seconds, and Outbreak on cooldown. It’s that they’re not very meaningful – the only abilities they affect are Heart Strike/Blood Boil… and that’s it! Two abilities (which you have to choose between, no less), and nothing else, and threat isn’t even close to competitive enough for the minor hit in those lone abilities to matter.
Yes, there is the attack speed debuff of Frost Fever which is, of course, mandatory. In a raid, however, you can all but guarantee someone else will be providing it – a dps DK, a Feral Druid of any sort, a Prot Warrior, or a Prot Paladin.
Make diseases more interesting somehow; perhaps just make HS much weaker without them (and much stronger with them, thus killing two bird with one stone). Or possibly attach Scarlet Fever to Blood Plague, as has long been suggested. Maybe allow a talent such as Crimson Scourge to lower Outbreak’s cooldown by 30 seconds – diseases wouldn’t become any more important, there just wouldn’t be anything to gain (and pure loss) to ignore them.
Who knows. Whatever they do, don’t add a disease modifier to Rune Strike or Death Strike – we need to be able to do some burst threat without them as called for.
It’s fine. Enough said! It does good damage, it isn’t tied to diseases, it’s a unique runic dump, it procs Runic Empowerment (which makes it interesting, if nothing else), it has no silly avoidance requirement to use, and so on.
Good all around.
DnD, Pestilence, and Blood Boil all do the job perfectly fine, and best of all, all three abilities scale incredibly well with AP (… meaning Vengeance). Between these three and Rune Strike/Death Strike, picking up adds isn’t a matter of hoping the right resources just happen to be available, but rather the player paying attention and optimally using what abilities they can, which is as it should be.
Whatever else, remove the parry from Dancing Rune Weapon, and make it a pure threat/damage cooldown (also knock down the cost). Or, at the least, make DRW a flat damage reduction, as avoidance cooldowns are very tricky to balance (as they get stronger as your gear improves).
Otherwise, we have that, Bone Shield, Vampiric Blood, Icebound Fortitude, Anti-Magic Shell, Army of the Dead, and Will of the Necropolis (passive, to be sure, but still very strong and on par/superior to others). That’s six, and that’s not even counting whatever you consider Rune Tap to be.
Too many. Period.
I could go on and on. I could speak on Rune Tap, Runic Empowerment (still), Crimson Scourge, Glyphs, the GCD situation, and a million other facets, but I’ll stop myself now. As I said at the start, I could write more on tanking matters than I ever could on dps, but I know that’s not why most of you are here, and I’ve already rushed and crammed too much into this post.
Suffice is to say that the spec is in a beautiful place. Single target and AoE threat are not only sufficient, but strong, and more importantly enjoyable. Self-healing and mastery are both more than equal to block, and really give the spec a unique flavor. Cooldowns are too plentiful, but set us apart (albeit not really for the better, in terms of balance). Vengeance is interesting, if a bit over the top.
As matters currently stand, I would easily argue we’re the best tanks at the moment. Druids come close, and I could see them being considered equal depending on the situations, but Prot Paladins and Prot Warriors simply don’t compare whatsoever.
Now, I’m sure I’ll get some flack for this post; things aren’t all flowers and sunshine. There are issues; diseases being the big one, as mentioned, on top of Runic Empowerment (still believe it’s a good concept, but a flawed implementation), talent tree bloat, Scarlet Fever, and so on. None of these, however, are game-breaking in the least, and none of these even begin to outweigh all the positives the spec has going for it.
Talking raw gameplay and ignoring all other factors, I would much rather tank than dps in Cataclysm with how things are right now.
Tanking on the latest beta patch is more enjoyable than it’s ever been…
… except for when the old Unholy Blight was around! Never forget.