Upcoming – Frost and Unholy

Between finals, the launch of the expansion, the holidays, acquiring a new job, visiting family, and a few other time consuming events all in the period of a mere three weeks, I haven’t been able to blog nearly as much as I would normally have liked – I haven’t been able to blog at all, in fact! Thankfully, things are now starting to die down, out of game and in, and should allow me to return to writing here on a regular basis, so long as there are topics to write about… which, of course, there now are, with Ghostcrawler having blogged this evening about how the decelopers view each class at the moment, in terms of general balance, and some of the specific changes we can look forward to seeing in the (likely couple month, if I were to guess) future.

The DK relevant info is as follows:

[General]

  • For Cataclysm, we changed Death Strike almost completely into an ability for Blood DK tanks, which is a bit unfortunate. We want to make sure it is still a useful button for Frost or Unholy DKs who need healing.
  • We also want to address DK mobility in PvP.

[Frost]

  • Frost is likely overperforming on multiple targets.

[Unholy]

  • Unholy is likely overperforming on single targets.
  • We want to make sure Unholy DKs prefer two-handed weapons.
  • Necrotic Strike needs to be affected by resilience.
  • Blightcaller simply isn’t working; we’re looking to redesign it to make it similar to Druid’s Symbiosis, where DK attacks do more damage to diseased targets.

My overall impression is that everything is spot on; Blizzard understands the issues (GC doesn’t touch upon all of them, of course, but those he does hit, he responds to correctly and in a promising manner) and they have a good feel for the current balance of the specs. Although it might be a bit early to claim this, they seem to be focusing more on number tweaks then overhauling entire abilities, which hopefully should prevent a lot of the turmoil the Death Knight class (and Unholy spec, specifically) underwent in Wrath due to the constant, radical changes to core spells and strikes. We’ll have to change how we gear – that’s inevitable with almost any change of decent magnitude – but we won’t have to be relearning our rotation, redoing our spec, and compeltely modifying the way we play, which should allow theorycrafting to focus on more important matters, then always having to play catch up to the latest whims of the devs!

As to the specifics?

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Eloquence – Forget It

I was originally typing something up on GC’s first blue post of the day concerning Runic Empowerment and GCD capping. Long analysis short, his post was excellent except for the line where he (once again) falsely attributed our GCD problems to haste rating (despite math/simulations showing the opposite and despite it easily being experienced by anyone on beta that even with 0% haste we’re locked).

Unfortunately, I never completed that response because then he made a new post where he basically said that we only get global capped when we get procs (which is true),  and that’s ok because it only happens some of the time not all the time (which is only somewhat misleading). You see, his logic is faulty – yes, where RNG is involved you can’t use absolutes. That’s a fact of life. Sometimes we’ll get lucky on procs and get way overcapped. Sometimes we’ll get unlucky and sit for a few seconds twiddling our toes (much more fun then twiddling one’s thumbs, I assure you). Neither situation is the norm, however. Over time, on average, we will get a sufficient amount of procs to use all of our available globals and then some. Period. Extreme situations, such as those mentioned above, don’t skey things much one way or the other over the long run. Kahorie ran some numbers a week or two back using his sim, and was able to show us using 98% of our total GCDs. That’s pretty much as capped as you can be when RNG is involved!. Saying that if you ignore procs you’re not limited, and procs are rng, thus you’re fine because sometimes they won’t happen, is just nonsensical. The vast majority of the time they will happen more than enough for us to cap ourselves.

Anyways, my second entry was much more thorough, but then I had to scrap that one too!

Why?

A new beta build has been uncovered, and with it a change which negates half of the above discussion to pointlessness:

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Runic Empowerment – GC’s Words

Just a head’s up, I do read blue posts as soon as I can! Although I certainly appreciate the thought, there’s really no need for me to get dozens of messages via Twitter/Email/Forum PM whenever a DK-related one is thrown up! If I haven’t yet said anything about it, that just means I’m not home yet or otherwise not yet in a position to comment. Generally the first. Like I said, thank you, but just not necessary.

Anyways, for reference, the blue post in question today:

To begin with, let’s just go ahead and ignore the first paragraph. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with it (although there kinda is; more on that later)… it’s just stuff we already know either because of official comments in the past or plain common sense. Yes, obviously Runic Empowerment is intended to mix up our rotations. Yes, obviously if Runic Empowerment didn’t exist (and nothing was there in it’s place), Rime and Sudden Doom on their own would be insufficient to keep us on our toes. Yes some people dislike random mechanics because they make things more difficult.

Yes, yes, yes. We knew all of this (and I, personally, would agree with it all).

Thus, moving onwards.

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Dark Simulacrum – Destined For…

Greatness or ignominy?

That, as they say, is the question. No matter how it may seem at the present, it’s likely to end up in the middle, if anything, as it should be.

As it currently stands, you can copy almost anything which has a mana-cost. There are a few exceptions (Water Elemental and Felguard will instantly die, for instance, as they likely check themselves against your talents), but not many. Essentially all damage and healing spells can be mimicked, as has been expected all along (although in some cases they’ll be instant as opposed to having a cast time, and won’t actually consume the Dark Simulacrum debuff, allowing overpowered scenarios like spamming an instant cast Divine Light for 20 seconds straight! Obviously a bug, and likely a simple one for them to iron out). Crowd-control,  snares, and like are usable as well. We can steal demon summons, but such use is slated for removal (due to all of the understandable technical complications).

Nothing surprising so far, right?

But then you get to self-buffs: Shadowform, Windfury Weapon, Molten Armor, Dark Intent, Seals, and so forth. All of them can be copied, and for their full-duration at that.

And that’s where the problem lies.

You see,  according to this post, Ghostcrawler doesn’t have a problem with it copying Shadowform (and, likely, the other similar spells), but then states the obvious – that such abilities will have to have a Dark Simulacrum imposed limited duration, presumably similar to how buffs from Spell Steal are automatically capped at two minutes.

The big question of course, is what sort of time cap are we looking at? Because no matter which way you go, you’re looking for trouble.

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Capped – Yeah We Are

For those who aren’t already aware and thus I must safely assume live under rocks, yesterday Ghostcrawler answered a slew of Death Knight related questions and issues. Although it certainly wasn’t everything we possibly wanted to know  – which would have been quite unrealistic for him to type up – it was a series of excellent posts, just the sort that we’ve been waiting for these past couple months. If you haven’t already read these writings, I would highly recommend going ahead and doing so now.

Essentially, he hits six main points:

  • 2H Frost is indeed still intended to be viable.
    • Which wasn’t really in doubt, but is still good to know!
  • DW Unholy is not intended to be taking over the tree.
    • Once again, no real comment necessary, except thanks. It will be interesting to see how they tackle this issue – simply nerfing/changing/removing Sudden Doom isn’t sufficient at this point.
  • Pestilence wasn’t intended to be an AoE so much as a means of preventing us from having to tab PS/IT constantly. Unfortunately, the damage makes it difficult to balance, and although they aren’t thrilled with the 50% mechanic, they aren’t really thrilled with any of their options.
    • Understandable. Tab PS/ITing isn’t the same as tab dotting; it’s much harder to do the first due to the melee limitations, not to mention the actually meaningful resource cost. There’s a few different ways Blizzard could take the skill while avoiding this issue (and also avoiding the current one of Pestilence being a single button wonder which deals 30k damage to all the mobs around you!), and I’ll delve into it tonight/tomorrow.
  • There are still too many passive talents.
    • Confirmation is godsend!
  • There’s nothing wrong with Icy Touch and Howling Blast hitting decently hard, as long as meleeing is more important for optimal damage.
    • Doesn’t quite address the Howling Blast single target/AoE conundrum, but it is nice to know they don’t mind it hitting decently hard in any which case.

All in all, excellent stuff.

You’ll notice, however, that I left out one big issue GC touched upon: us being GCD capped. He attributes it to the large remenants of haste we’re still likely to have on gear from Icecrown and the ArP conversion. Although that logic is sound enough, even at 0% haste, we’re still capped as bad as ever!

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Latest Blue – Uh, Ok

On the plus side, at long (long) last, we’ve finally received a DK-centric blue post!

On the down side… well, where to begin…

Mechanics that weren’t working have been changed up.

I assume this is in regards to the rune system and runic power generation changes? After all, those are the only real “mechanic” changes we have received.

The issue here is that the current rune system (and it’s RP produced) work just fine on live, so the claim is somewhat off. Yes, the current system wouldn’t have worked in Cataclysm, given new abilities and procs, but there hasn’t been much to live up to that promise of new abilities (Outbreak, which is far from necessary and in no way interesting) and new procs (Runic Empowerment, the current state of which is a nightmare and has yet to be commented on), so the different is negilible.

Besides, the new rune system has just as many issues as the old, at least when you look at in the overall picture of other beta changes, and thus isn’t some miracle, especially when many problematic aspects of the new rune system (such as rune costs for cooldowns or relative cost for non damage abilities) haven’t been adjusted as they were supposed to.

In fairness, the wording doesn’t state that they think they’ve actually fixed or solved anything, just that they’ve changed it!

Some boring, passive damage talents have been removed.

Very few (although, don’t get me wrong, I can’t help but love Blizzard for the removal of Desolation!).

In contrast, look at all the ones which remain: Improved Icy Touch, Annihilation, Corrupting Strikes, Morbidity, and Necrosis are as present (and as boring and passive) as ever.

Relative to the total number of talents available, we actually have more “boring, passive” increases in the new trees than we do in the Wrath ones, which is quite ironic considering half the intent of shrinking the trees was to do the exact opposite.

Overall we didn’t feel the need to replace talents like say Rime, Dirge or Killing Machine

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Hypotheticals – Frost First

Let us say that tomorrow was Ghostcrawler’s birthday. Now, I don’t know how old GC actually is, but I imagine he’s somewhere in his 30s (give or take). According to Google, that’s the sort of age which most species of crab would never meet, as their lifespan is apparently a mere 15-20 years. So, his birthday would be a rather big deal, would it not? It would be record breaking, in fact! Having been a marine biologist, GC knows as much and, being the fun loving guy that he is, decides to invite all of the various Cataclysm class delevopers and designers to a party on his yacht. Now, he knows that things might just get wild and out of control, so he does the most responsible thing he can think of: He picks a random person of each class to formulate a patch’s worth of beta changes (for their specific class) and see how the forums react to them.

Let’s pretend that in this hypothetical I was the one to be given the reigns to the DK class for the duration of a single beta build. I had to refine (not define or rebuild) the class and keep to Blizzard’s stated vision and intent.

What would I do?

Consider this, pun intended, a rough draft.

My Goals

Obviously I wouldn’t just start randomly changing this and that, left and right, to see how people respond. I would have some sort of plan, which would be based on the current problems of the class (both acknowledged by Blizzard or otherwise overwhelmingly perceived by the playerbase). It would make for a checklist which looked something like this:

  • Ensure the class used the majority of our globals, but wasn’t capped in ordinary circumstances.
  • Eliminate any redundancies in our abilities.
  • Ensure each ability has a clear purpose in the scheme of the specs.
  • Ensure no two abilities were too similar.
  • Ensure both specs were less static than they are currently.
    • Maintain Frost’s slightly more “proccy” nature relative to Unholy’s more predictable one.
  • Ensure Frost still adhered to its themes of heavy Frost damage, physical damage, procs, runic power generation, and attack speed.
  • Ensure Unholy still adhered to its themes of heavy Shadow damage (via spells and strikes), diseases, pets, and ‘anti-magic’.
  • Although the focus at this stage of beta is PvE, try to ensure there aren’t any major repercussions for PvP.
  • Can’t be said enough, but refine the class. Not remake it. Not redesign it. Fix it and enhance it with as few and as “simple” changes as possible.

Note: I wouldn’t be focusing on specific talents, but rather the general playstyles and feel of each spec. Talents are easy to make and unmake, easy to mold to a specific need or desire. The overall gist of a spec is far more important.

With all of that in mind, where would I take the trees?

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