Once More – Into The Breach

It has been a plain ridiculous amount of time since I last blogged, for which I have received plenty of well-deserved flak, but such is how matters worked out, and it was probably for the best anyways. Perhaps it would have been better if I had been a bit more persistent with the whole thing, but I simply haven’t been terribly enthused about anything WoW related (or MMO related at all, for that matter) in a while, and writing without any motivation beyond “because I should” is just horrid. On the other hand, when you have a topic which truly interests you, which gets your brain racing in a dozen different directions trying to speculate, math, or reason out the possibilities… well, in such a case, writing is easy. The hard part in such a scenario is not how to start, but when to stop, and when you find yourself in such a situation, you generally welcome it… as I do now.

What, may you ask, has finally given me this sudden impulse to ramble?

No, it wasn’t the press release from last week which detailed Blizzard’s ingenius plot to merge Farmville, Pokemon, Kung Fu Panda, and, of course, Warcraft, to concoct a product which could rival crack or nicotine in terms of addictability (which isn’t a word, but should be).  For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m actually pretty pleased with how Mists of Pandaria looks and I have few, if any, complaints. My largest concern isn’t that the expansion will be awesome, but rather that subsequent patches during the expansion’s life cycle may not live up to that initial joy. As I would argue was largely the case with Cataclysm, but that’s neither here nor there.

No, I wasn’t in the first wave of MoP beta, unfortunately, although such a thing is just a matter of time.  I did do the Annual Pass immediately, in combination with my account being open since January 2005 (which is crazy to think about, but another topic for another time, perhaps), so I’m not too concerned this time around.

No, it wasn’t some shocking Death Knight revelation any of the actual beta testers (curse their souls; unconcerned I may be, but jealous and envious of those with access all the same!) discovered. DK wise, things appear pretty much as expected, from what I read, which isn’t shocking – we didn’t get any drastic changes (beyond the ones inherent with the talent reform), as most of our mechanics stayed roughly the same, and our new abilities are all pretty unambiguous in their effects, so no real surprises there. If you’re happy with your DK now, you’ll likely be even happier in MoP. We didn’t get anything likeable taken away/nerfed (in usability; numbers are rather pointless to consider at the moment), and got plenty of quality of life improvements, on top of some new toys to play with. Which isn’t to say I won’ t spend some time during beta talking about Death Knights – I almost certainly will – just that I see little to talk about as of yet, and thus will hold off till we see a bit more/things develop/I get beta access.

The reason for this entry?

Warlocks, of all things. Crazier still, it’s about the potential of Warlock tanks – beyond the rare gimmick encounter like Illidan. The very, very real potential.

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Before Cata – To Be Done

I have no clue how to begin going about apologizing for my recent lack of blogging! I don’t know what’s been up with me, but I’ve been completely lethargic when it comes to writing; and for that, all I can say is sorry.

Of course, it doesn’t help that there hasn’t been much of anything to talk about. I mean, I can sum up the last couple week’s worth of changes in just a few sentences: The Unholy Might nerf is a straight up dps hit, of course, but not all that significant of one, and Strength should still trump Haste at the start of 85. The Mastery buff is free dps for Unholy, not quite covering for the aforementioned nerf, and it still leaves the rating as the worst secondary stat available to the spec. The change to Chaotic Skyflare’s requirement is just utterly bizzare, and whether it’s worth bothering to meet (as opposed to the alternatives of  using Enigmatic for Unholy or Fleeting for Frost) remains to be seen.

And… that’s pretty much it. Nothing else has happened for DK dps in some time!

Which isn’t to say we still need many changes at this point. There are a couple of bugs, which I’m sure will be fixed shortly, but aside from that? Unholy is in an excellent place. Stat balance could be closer, Virulence/Epidemic could be better, the Gargoyle could not be so weak, and our Ghoul could scale with crit… but overall, the spec has shaped up very nicely, and obviously things will never be perfect, especially since perfection is all in the eye of the beholder! Frost isn’t quite as well off; Runic Empowerment is Runic Empowerment, the AoE rotation is all sorts of messed up, Tier 1/2 are rather lackluster, DW is GCD capped, and so on, but the spec is perfectly functional, and I’m sure there are some who will love and thrive on the chaotic style of the tree.

All in all, though, things are wrapping up, and I wouldn’t expect any earth shattering (get it?) changes for us between now and the actual expansion.

Thus with the likely lack of any real upheaval for the class, there’s a variety of pre-Cataclysm odds and ends I would like to attend to before December 7th, and I figured I would share. Some of these will be actual blog topics while others will be modifications to the EJ guides; hopefully all of it will be of an interest, and should be enough to keep myself busy (and, thus, keep all of you pleased!). If there’s any suggestions for anything else you would like to see before launch day, feel free to suggest it, and I will happily consider it. After then… well, I would expect things to be busy enough that the topics will all but write themselves!

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Blood – Some Thoughts

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.

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Stats – Scaling Basics

Stat scaling is an interesting, if rarely discussed, subject. It’s the reason why stat weights vary from tier to tier, and why gearing can be such a headache at times.

For the most part, stats actually scale in a very understandable manner: linearly. For the math inept among us, something which is linear is merely a straight line of some sort which can be reduced to the equation y=mx; in this case, with y being dps gained, x being the specific stat in question, and m being some sort of coefficient depending on the stat’s worth. The more valuable a stat is, the greater m will be, and vice versa. M is essentially that stat’s weight – simply normalized depending on the AP:DPS ratio of your spec/gear level. If a stat scales linearly with itself, it doesn’t matter how much of that stat you already have – you’re still going to get Y dps for every X of that stat. Period.

It is important to note that, in this context, we’re talking absolute dps gained, not the relative amount. E.g, if 10 strength gives you 50 dps, and strength scales linearly (it does), then it will give you that same 50 dps regardless of pre-existing strength amount. That said, that 50 dps may be a 1% dps gain when you have 100 strength to begin with, and only a 0.5% dps gain when you have 200 strength to begin with. Just something to keep in mind.

With that out of the way, which stats are linear? Attack power, strength, crit rating, and mastery rating.

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EJ Guide – Cata Frost’s Up

After much confusion as to who was actually undertaking the oh so exciting (sarcasm here, I assure you!) task of the thread and sorting that all out, I’ve thrown up the preliminary Cataclysm version of the Elitist Jerks Frost DK dps guide. It’s viewable here, for those interested.

I will note, it’s still very much a work of progress – more so than the Unholy version – but, of course, even what isn’t nearly complete or polished by my standards is still perfectly informative and decent enough for most use. I can’t emphasize that enough; although happy with the job I did on relatively short notice in a quite small span of time, I’m not terribly pleased with how it is yet. Heavy edits will follow, I assure you, but I need my sleep for now.

The one thing I am really on the fence about and would love feedback on is how similar to keep (or not to keep) the format compared to the Unholy guide. Obviously the two specs have different needs, and thus one will have certain sections which the other doesn’t, and vice versa – of course. I mean aside from that. I just can’t decide how different to make it. Stick with the Unholy format, as it closely resembles now, so as to make it easier for those who go from one to another, and because that format has been quite successful and highly commended? Or differentiate it more in various ways since it is a different spec with different needs and such?

Tough decision, and a dilemma which I worded horribly, but that’s the reason I must run off and rest!

Perhaps a clearer mind in the morning will make it easier to sort out.

EJ Guide – Cata Unholy’s Up

The title should be self-explanatory: I went ahead and posted the Cataclysm version of my Elitist Jerks Unholy DK dps guide. It’s viewable here, for those interested.

It’s still somewhat of a work in progress, but it should be more than sufficient for the time being, and it will obviously fill out and be refined between now and the release of Cataclysm (and continuing thereafter). Besides, even in it’s “fresh” state, it still blows most of the similar posts on EJ out of the water, if I do say so myself!

Besides, if this is how complete it is two months before the expansion even hits, just imagine how it will be two or twelve or twenty months after! Modesty aside, I’m quite pleased with it, especially since I pushed it out from scratch in about 24 hours.

New Abilities – Why Not Steal

This week has been quite uneventful, to say the least! No new beta build. No Death Knight related blue posts (although ones for every other class!). Nothing promising from the multiple interviews coming out of Gamescon (“No further major class changes are planned for the beta. From here out it will be primarily tuning,” for example, can’t be good for us, although what is tuning and what’s a major change is a matter of opinion/semantics, I suppose). And then, on a personal level, I’m still dealing with my new computer, not to mention I’ve been totally caught up in another project, which has made my posting quite sparse.

But, hey, such is life. Simply have to think positive!

A new beta build is almost guaranteed to hit this coming week (and it should contain Archaeology, of all things). DK-related blue posts will happen at some point in the future, certainly. Even if nothing “major” is planned for any class, it’s rather unarguable that we’re in destined for many “tweaks” and general “tuning”. On the personal level, my new computer should be finished which means I’ll be able to stream/fraps regularly (current comp just can’t handle it, not with fluent play at any decent level of quality).

Things shall turn around, but in the meantime, there’s not much for us to talk about which hasn’t already been discussed to death over the past two months or so that we’ve gone without any serious solutions to our issues – I mean, the beta DK thread is currently debating runeforges, of all things!

So why not have some fun?

Let’s be honest – we didn’t get the most exciting new abilities for Cataclysm. Outbreak doesn’t do anything we can’t already do with existing spells; and it’s not even strong enough to replace that which we already have. Necrotic Strike is a bit on the different side, but it’s only of any real use in one aspect of the game, and even there, it’s going to wreck havoc on our playstyle with it’s single Unholy rune cost, not to mention healing absorbption won’t terribly differ from the equivalent damage in most cases. Dark Simulacrum is actually unique and pretty cool, so no complaints there. One for three, however, isn’t the greatest track record. And this is on top of the fact that we didn’t get any new talented abilities either (Pillar of Frost being little more than a renamed Unbreakable Armor).

Although it’s looking less and less realistic by the day, what if Blizzard decided we really could use something unique and, just maybe, useful, too?

Now, obviously the sky’s the limit when trying to come up with new abilities. For every possible problem, there’s a hundred ways to address it, and for each way to address it, there’s then a hundred different variations as far as the specifics go. Thus, sometimes, it’s best not to come up with something new for to the game, but rather new to the player. In other words, steal NPC abilities and adapt them to fill a current hole in our arsenal.

It’s been done many times before, with Mage’s Flame Orb being one of the most recent and most recognizable instances of such a deed, so why not us?

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