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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Meta-Gems – Some Confirmation

Ever since they changed the requirements of Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond a couple beta builds ago, there’s been a lot of debate among the various dps specs/classes as to whether it’s worth bothering to use. In particular, I saw that Hamlet and Binkenstein (moonkin and elemental shaman geniuses, respectively) recently declared the meta – red gem sacrifices and all – to be worth using for their own classes.

To clear up the matter for Death Knights:

  • Unholy will never use it, unless your gear set up somehow has less than ~5 gem sockets total, assuming a random distribution of colors/bonuses. Even in an unrealistic set-up with nothing but a dozen blue sockets, unless at least half of those blue sockets give a strength bonus, you still wouldn’t bother with CSD! Questing or raiding gear, Chaotic is out.
  • Frost DW and Frost 2H won’t use it, unless their gear has less than ~9 gem sockets total, assuming a random distribution of colors/bonuses. Basically, you’ll use it when you first hit 85, but ditch it once the majority of your gear is from heroics (or better).

That’s all.

All three specs will likely end up using Destructive Shadowspirit Diamond; yeah, the 1% spell reflect is worthless, but you don’t have to sacrifice any strength via orange/purple gems to activate it, which is the real charm of the meta. The only real alternatives are Enigmatic Shadowspirit Diamond and Impassive Shadowspirit Diamond; if you happen to be socketing at least one orange and one purple anyways, you may as well proceed to use either of those two; or if any raid fights happen to utilize snares/fears, then of course the respective gem would pull ahead and be worth the sacrifice.

One may wonder why I don’t point out Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond as a possibility for Frost DW; although it depends on the specific socket bonuses available to your individual set of gear, generally speaking it’s a smaller sacrifice to pick up run speed from your boot enchant then it is from the meta, even considering the passive bonus a mastery meta has over a crit meta.

Anyways, just one of several little matters to clear up before 85!

Cata BiS – Unholy

Self-explanatory title; best in slot lists for Unholy based off of the stat weights generated and discussed in my post from last evening.

Doing this “by hand” (meaning without the use of a gear optimizer, program, or spreadsheet of some sort) are somewhat annoying, and thus it may be a day or two until I bother to tackle Frost. Gear choices and gemming is easy to figure out, for the most part; it’s reforging which can be taxing on one’s brain!

Anyways, jumping right into it:

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Cata Stat Weights – It Begins

I see no need for a prelude, as the title is self-explanatory enough, and I’m sure this is the sort of information people are quite eager for (as I know I was). May as well just jump straight into it.

A simple disclaimer: matters could certainly change between now and the expansion’s release. This information is all accurate as of the current beta build, however, and I would be surprised if anything radically shifted (although, as you’ll see, stat balance isn’t too hot at the moment, so it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if weights were to get fairly well tweaked).

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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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Simulating – What’s Where

The single most common question in regard to 4.0.1 also happens to be one of the sillest: “What spec does the most dps?” or some variation there of.

Consider this a simple stab at answering it.

I ran 100 hours of 5 minute fights. Each spec was in an optimized BiS set, reforged, gemmed, and enchanted as appropriate. The Frost sims were done as their best race, Worgen, with Unholy as theirs; Orc. Each were using an AP flask, str food, and speed pots. The Unholy sims assumed 100 RP/45 seconds from AMS usage. The ICC buff was, of course, turned off, although it would be easy to multiply the final number by 1.3 if you wished to factor it in. So forth.

The XMLs of each set up are linked in the spec/weapon name, so you can confirm the results (and just test stuff in general) yourself.

With that said, you’ll see things are quite similar across the specs… with the notable exception of Unholy DW!

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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.