The Death Knight Number Shuffle

28 Oct

I am not a theorycrafter really. I have a basic idea of how the stats work for the classes, and why we want some more than others, but I couldn’t tell you the exact values, or how people determine them, or even a vague idea of how people decide how to determine stat weights. All that having been said, I do want to talk about Death Knight stats for a few minutes. Basically, I am going to go down the line and list what each stat does for us (for each spec), why we would want it, and why we would not want it. I’ve noticed a rather disheartening trend among all of the so-called “guide” sites (noxxic, mr robot, EJ, icy-veins) in that NOBODY is giving the same information to the community. This is a problem because if 4 people are getting their information from any of the 4 different sites, who’s to say who’s wrong or right?

Strength: Initially, I wasn’t going to mention it, but I feel the need to do so because I *still* come across some numbskull DKs rolling on Agility rings or trinkets or what have you. Strength is our base stat. Long gone are the days of DKs using agility weapons, because we get absolute shit for benefit from them. If a DK is using an agility weapon, they’re doing it wrong. Some people have the sort of “golden rule” about a 3-tier improvement making agi weapons allowable based solely on weapon damage increases alone, but I think that’s shit. If you’re a DK, you should have strength on everything. All three specs get 2 AP (Attack Power) per 1 point of strength.

Blood – Blood DKs get an added bonus of having a parry rate conversion from strength. Roughly 90% of strength is converted into parry rating. To put this into easier-to-digest terms, if an item has 100 strength on it, and you’re a blood DK, it’ll give you the equivalent of 90 parry rating as well.

Hit: This is a simple one to explain. Hit lets you hit things more frequently. Easy, right? The percentage to never miss a raid boss-level mob is 7.5% (2550 hit rating at 90, or 2210 hit rating if you’re a draenei)

Frost Dual-Wield – Any dual-wielding class has things a bit differently. They will notice two sets of hit ratings on their character sheet when they mouse over it. Innately, it takes something like 15% hit rating to completely hit cap (aka “white cap”. Every attack that has white damage numbers is an auto-attack, whereas if it’s yellow numbers, it’s an ability). It’s worth noting that NO dual-wielding class will pour enough stats into reaching white cap. They will stop at 7.5% (“yellow cap”, or “specials cap”). The amount of hit rating it takes to white cap simply take too much away from the your other stats to be worthwhile.

Expertise: This one is relatively simple to explain as well. Every creature in wow (player-controlled or NPC) has a built-in chance to dodge attacks, and most have a chance to parry them as well (not all PCs do). Expertise removes the chance you will be dodged or parried (in that order). Now, prior to MoP, expertise was handled a bit differently in that up to a certain point, it would push some of both dodge AND parry off the table. Since 5.0, it is much more simply done. There is a maximum of 15% expertise. 7.5% (2550 hit rating at 90, or 2210 hit rating if you’re a have sword/axe/mace specialization and are using the corresponding weapon) will completely push dodge off the combat table, and the next 7.5% will push parry off the table.

Frost/Unholy – It’s worth noting that NO creatures can parry from the back or sides. If you are frost or unholy (or any other melee dps class for that matter), you should *always* be behind the boss whenever physically possible. Since you’re ideally behind everybody, you never have to worry about parry, so you can safely stop at 7.5% expertise.

Blood – Now then, obviously tanks don’t get that choice. They’re always in front of the boss, and as such will get parried sometimes. With this in mind, as a tank, you’re probably NEVER going to go for the 15% expertise level. The reason for this is because Death Strike cannot be parried. Basically, the most important ability that factors in your survival stops at 7.5% expertise, so why go higher?

Haste: Haste is a funny thing for Death Knights. Actually, it’s been a funny thing for a lot of classes since 5.0, but that’s not what i’m writing about. Haste makes our weapon swing faster, that’s the obvious part. Haste also plays a part in our rune regeneration, so it’s something that has the potential to be a big deal for all of the specs.

Frost 2-handed/Unholy – Haste is the biggest stat for 2-handers. Because of the way things work currently, haste will contribute more runes for you to hit the big button (either obliterate or scourge strike) more often. It also contributes more, proportionally, to your swing speed since you start off with a much slower speed.

Frost Dual-Wield - Prior to 5.0, haste was the big deal for all three DPS specs, but it doesn’t work like that anymore… more on that later.

Mastery: Mastery continues to be an interesting stat to look at across the board for all three specs of Death Knight.

Blood – Mastery is the king of the frickin hill for tanks. Death Strike is your mainstay of survivability, and mastery increases the percentage of your death strike that gets turned into a shield. For instance, i’m currently sitting at about 130% mastery, so to put it in easier to digest numbers… if my DS heals me for 10,000 then I will generate a shield for 13,000.

Unholy – Sadly, mastery is kind of the bottom of the heap for unholy specced DKs, and i’ll tell you why. Haste not only contributes to your swing speed and rune regeneration, but it ALSO contributes to your minion’s swing speed. It double dips, sort of. Crit has the same thing in that it increases your crit, as well as your ghoul’s crit. Mastery increases shadow damage, and while a significant portion of YOUR damage is shadow damage, your minion does NOT deal shadow damage.

Frost - Frost is a funny thing. If you are a dual-wielding frost DK, then mastery is going to be your kingpin. With Frost Strike being your heavy hitter (and dealing actual FROST damage instead of weapon damage like Obliterate), then mastery just makes your hardest hitter… hit harder. Conversely, for the 2-handed frosty DKs, frost strike is a much lower portion of your damage overall, so you don’t benefit as much from mastery.

Crit: Crit is, by and large, a pretty simple stat that is worthless to 3/4 of the Death Knight specs.

Unholy – As I mentioned before, Unholy is the only spec that really gets any actual benefit from crit. It’s not a strong a stat for you as haste is, but it IS stronger than Mastery in that your minion will double dip from any extra crit you already have. It’s relatively useless for Frost because most of your crits are going to come from Killing Machine procs, and it’s even more useless for Blood because your job is staying alive, not putting out big numbers… although we ALL KNOW that you’re tending to do both right now. So why do you need crit anyway, huh? Greedy.

Dodge/Parry: This is only going to be found on tank gear. If you’re an unholy or frost DK, and you have either of these on your gear, then you are doing it WRONG.

Now then, to break it down, the varied specs stat priorities SHOULD look like this.

Blood – Hit/Exp cap* > Mastery > Parry** > Dodge > crit/haste.

*I know that in a previous post I said that 7.5% hit/exp may not be the best way to go for raiding, and in fact I still stand by that feeling. However, to be completely optimal, you DO want to eliminate all chance for death strike to miss, so 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise is the OPTIMAL way to go, but between 4-5% of each is definitely satisfactory.

**As it stands currently, Parry is more valued than dodge because we have a higher value of baseline dodge (with zero gear on). About twice as much, actually. That in mind, we want to have about twice as much parry as we do dodge, because it will take that much more for the diminishing returns to even out. It’s also worth noting that the 4% parry given from Rune of Swordshattering does NOT SUFFER from diminishing returns… it’s a free 4%.

Frost 2-handed – Hit/Exp cap > Haste > Mastery > Crit

Frost Dual-Wield – Hit/Exp cap > Mastery > Haste > Crit

Unholy – Hit/Exp cap > Haste > Crit > Mastery

It should be noted that these priorities COULD be wrong. They are based on what I know and understand about the various specs with my own personal experience, but I have no math to back them up because… well, honestly i’m not very good with the maths. I don’t have stat weights for any of these. They are just “X is better than Y” in black and white, because that’s generally how it works.

Mogu’shan Vaults gear for Blood DKs

19 Oct

Now that Mogu’shan Vaults has been live for a couple weeks, and everything is out on LFR, I figured now was as good a time as any to put together the next gear list for t14 raiding. I’ll make a new gear list for Terrace of Endless Spring and Heart of Fear in the near future (probably around the times that those hit LFR as well).

As always, I prioritize hit/exp and mastery on all my gear. Dodge and parry are still good stats, but mastery is the top of the food chain for DKs at the moment, and it doesn’t get any worse the better your gear gets like dodge/parry do (diminishing returns are a bitch).

I’m going to change it up a wee bit and go down the line boss by boss instead of by gear slot.

The Stone Guard:

Beads of the Mogu’shi – This one is pretty much the exact counter to the VP necklace, so if you find yourself needing more dodge or expertise, go with the drop. If you find yourself needing more parry or hit, go with the valor buy.

Jasper Clawfeet – These are clearly meant to be DPS boots, but the mastery still makes them desirable for us. Only take them if you’ve had absolute shit luck for boot drops, and you’re not taking them from a plate DPS who could put them to better use. The socket, and baseline mastery make them better than the Sha of Anger’s quest boots, but still… don’t take them from a DPS.

Star-Stealer Waistguard – This belt is just plain sexy. Two sockets (plus a third from the belt buckle) mean MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF MASTERY. Also, it comes with mastery on it. There’s no reason to bypass this belt. Roll on it and pray for lucky dice.

Feng the Accursed:

Bracers of the Six Oxen – These are about equivalent to the VP bracers, with the exception of the hit. If you need more hit, go with the VP buys, if not, go with the drop.

Gara’jal the Spiritbinder:

Sollerets of Spirit Splitting – If you’ve made it this far, these boots are worth waiting for, and definitely better than the Jasper Clawfeet off of Stone Guard.

The Spirit Kings:

Breastplate of the Kings’ Guard – This is another item, clearly meant for DPS (haste what ew), but is still pretty good for us, since it has buckets of mastery. There’s also a BIG number of haste to reforge into something more beneficial (296 rating to turn into dodge/parry/hit/expertise)

Shoulderguards of the Unflanked – Red sockets weird me out on tank pieces, but even still this is a good shoulder piece. No mastery in it though, which is a shame really.

Elegon:

Band of Bursting Novas – A pretty solid ring, which seems to be another slot that we are going to have trouble filling in this first raid. Better than nothing, I suppose.

Vial of Dragon’s Blood – This trinket is *awesome*. Seriously, loads of mastery, and a huge dodge proc, and nothing to use manually? *sexy*. I would burn multiple coins on this trinket if I could. Very amazing.

Starshatter – This being the only two-handed strength weapon puts us in an awkward place, because all the DPS warriors, ret pallies, and dps DKs will all be fighting over this weapon. Stand your ground though, because it is BiS for all of you (until Terrace and Heart are released anyway).

Will of the Emperor -

Chestguard of Eternal Vigilance – The only real tank drop off the final boss of Mogu’shan Vaults. At least it’s a pretty good one, but the red and blue sockets are still weird as hell to me.

 

Itemization continues to be a weird-as-hell thing coming into the first raid of this expansion. I did discover, arbitrarily, that about 90% of our strength is converted into parry rating, however. That would explain a lot of the “Strength” socket bonuses on tank gear i’m seeing lately, but it’s still just… REALLY weird I don’t even know. It seems like they’re trying to have something for everybody, and while that’s GOOD, it tends to make itemization weird for us DKs who prioritize mastery above the rest of the planet, compared to, say Prot Pallies who have a *really* weird stat priority system. (Apparently they like haste now? I don’t even know). Anyway, Terrace of Endless Spring and Heart of Fear are released in a couple weeks, so expect to see follow-up posts regarding those two raids in the near future!

Pandas?

29 Sep

I’ve been meaning to blog the last few days, I swear I have, but PANDAS have kept me genuinely *beyond* busy. Also they’ve kept me far more entertained than I ever remember being in WoW since I first started almost 4 1/2 years ago… or okay, maybe back in Wrath… Wrath was a damn fine expansion too. But I digress.

Pandaria is fucking *fun* okay? (Kialesse and I have begun just referring to everything in-game as “Pandas” with each other. It’s probably a bit nauseating to anybody who might be watching, but they shouldn’t be peeking in my window and eavesdropping on our conversations anyway.)

I also want to take a minute to thank each and every one of you. Seriously. By the end of today (29 September), my blog will have crossed the 20,000 views mark. It absolutely blows my mind how much things have picked up around here lately, and I seriously couldn’t do it without all of you.

I actually don’t have a whole lot to say for this post, but I wanted to put something up for my experiences. Initially, I was going to do a big pictorial on my quest from 85-90, but I had to uninstall wow a few days ago, and like an absolute IMBECILE… I didn’t save my screenshots folder. 2 years worth of screenshots just gone. I was very very sad upon this realization. BUT, since then I have managed to take a few more screenshots, so I guess I can go with that.

Oh. And for the record, Blood DKs? Enjoy it while you can. You are going to get nerfed to shit at some point, because yeah… Our OP damage at 85 carried over just fine into level 90. When we killed Galleon (see the screenshot below), I was 3rd on DPS with 57k. Tanking. A single target fight. Yup, we’re going to get nerfed.

MOTHERFUCKING CLOUD SURFIN!

Ding 90!This guy has the most eyeball-destroyingly bad outfit EVER. He's like Fabulor's cousin!The Sha of Anger. I was just absolutely struck by how IMMENSE this guy was. He looks like a real world boss shouldGalleon, the OTHER world boss... being killed by me and a few other people. Thanks to Jasyla at cannotbetamed.com for putting the group together!

Hits and Misses of Cataclysm 5-mans

21 Sep

A guildie of mine was talking about bosses in 5-mans that were “pugbreakers”, and it kinda got me thinking about the various pugbreakers and cock-blocks throughout Cataclysm (especially early on in the pre-nerfed heroic 5-mans). So, I thought I would throw together a list of what I thought were the biggest badasses, and the most pathetic bosses across the expansion. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

I’m not including the Hour of Twilight 5-mans, because if your pugs are breaking on those, then *someone* needs to seriously re-examine what they’re doing on that particular toon.

Throne of the Tides: None of the bosses in this dungeon were particularly challenging. Or more accurately, none of them stood out as being overly challenging compared to the others. My favorite boss was probably Commander Ulthok, because it always amused me to watch tanks go smush when they weren’t paying attention to his cast bar. Of course, this can basically be overpowered by gear nowadays, but as a fresh 85, barely scraping by the gear level to get into heroics, that would one-shot a tank every time.

Blackrock Caverns: This is one of those weird dungeons that, for some reason, actually got harder to complete properly as time went on and people stopped giving a shit. As such, Corla became the pug-breaker because nobody understood how to actually watch their own debuff timers while still doing something resembling a proper rotation. Once ZG/ZA went live I probably had failures on this boss more than I had successes. My favorite boss was Karsh Steelbender. I’m biased in the fact that fights that require the tank to do something other than “stand there, soak hits, fling poop” tend to interest me more… However, i’ve seen enough tanks STILL fail at that fight that I realize tanks don’t always do things in that particular order.

Grim Batol: This whole *dungeon* tended to be a cockblock. To this day I don’t understand how so many people can’t figure out how to work an aoe targeting reticle, but every time we kill the dragons and there’s piles and piles of trash left alive, it still gets to me. The problem was, if you didn’t take out several packs, or AT LEAST whittle most of them down significantly, these fuckers would *hurt*. Even nowadays, a modestly geared tank can still find himself surprisingly bruised by uninjured trash packs if he’s not paying attention. If any boss was an actual pugbreaker, it was the unnerfed version of Erudax. He had a high DPS requirement, as well as target switching. Some of those poor dps just don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re not drooling on the buttons. I think my favorite fight here is probably Throngus. No particular reason, I just liked him.

Halls of Origination: This was another one where nothing was overly difficult, it was just really long. I did seem to have groups who didn’t quite understand how the interrupts and levers worked on Temple Guardian Anhuur, but I guess if there was a pugbreaker in this fight, it was Setesh and his infinitely-spawning portals of “oh my god so many adds”. Consequently, this was the most fun fight, for me, because it tended to give me the most to do. Swing at the boss a few times, kill the portal, pick up adds, stay alive, swing at the boss some more, so on and so forth.

Lost City of the Tol’Vir: This was probably the easiest heroic of them all. None of the trash hit particularly hard, the bosses were relatively easy, and the voice acting for General Husam (particularly his death speech) was so ridiculous, it bordered on comical. I think my favorite fight here was Lockmaw & Augh. It’s always fun for me, as a tank, to try my hand at snap aggro building on targets that have a focusing mechanic (like the mini alligators did). If I could pull them off their target for a few seconds, I was doing it right.

Stonecore: Everything about this dungeon screamed “Abandon all hope, ye pugs who enter here”, because before the first rounds of nerfs hit, this place was utterly brutal. I’ve seen pugs break on any and every trash pack and boss fight several times over… except the last one, actually. Once you got past Ozruk, your group was going to make it. Consequently, Ozruk was my favorite fight hands down. Learning to do the dance on him (run behind for ground slam, run away for shatter, hope you ran far enough, fast enough that you weren’t DESTROYED by it, run back quickly enough that he didn’t move too far away, rinse and repeat) was an experience i’ll never forget. It was legitimately *stressful* learning it, but once I got it down… well hell i’ll never forget how to tank Ozruk again. Previously, Shatter had no visible range marker, and whatever range it DID have was quite a bit larger than it is now, so making it out in time was a matter of timing everything perfectly.

Vortex Pinnacle: This place was a bit of an odd dungeon. It was simultaneously nerfed and buffed at the same time. See, the problem was that the first boss and the last boss were too easy, whereas the second boss was IMMENSELY hard. Tornadoes moved, and they didn’t just throw you straight up, they tossed you sideways and diagonally, and more often than not right off his platform, where he would instantly call you a coward and one-shot you before you had time to *think* about getting back up on the platform.  Vortex Pinnacle was the very first heroic I did, just a few days after the Cataclysm launched, and I remember the group I had (myself tanking, guildie healer, and 3 pug DPS) being extremely cool and patient about everything. We must’ve wiped on Altairus 5 or 6 times, but managed to get past him eventually. I have to admit, that is one thing that the difficulty of pre-nerf heroics did bring back to pugging… patience. Nowadays everyone gets irritated at the simplest little mistakes that everyone makes, and god help you if you wipe on anything cause they’re gone. I’m not sure I have a favorite boss in here, because as far as tanking goes they were all pretty boring, and Altairus really *was* too difficult to handle at the time.

Deadmines: Good old Deadmines. This was another dungeon that was pretty much a pugbreaker all around. Most of the bosses weren’t terribly difficult, but the trash man. The trash was pretty obscene if your DPS just wasn’t spot on all the time. There was one boss who stood out above the others in his difficulty, and that was Admiral Ripsnarl. It had a high dps requirement, but also a high healing requirement (because the tank would get pretty bruised as Ripsnarl’s buff stacked up), and LOTS of target switching and fast nuking. I saw plenty of groups make it through the other bosses without too much problem, but absolutely break on Ripsnarl because the dps wasn’t high enough or the healer couldn’t keep up. Groups that *did* manage to get past Ripsnarl always had a hell of a time on the gauntlet heading back to the ship, but you could fail at that miserably and still end up completing the dungeon successfully. I’m not sure I had a specific boss fight that I liked or didn’t like. This whole place was well done, difficult, and relatively “standard faire” for me.

Shadowfang Keep: Nothing about Shadowfang Keep was overly difficult, but it just felt so incredibly *long* compared to most of the other dungeons (excepting maybe Deadmines). Commander Springvale caused more than a few wipes, but he was also skipable, so most groups, after wiping once or twice on him, just continued on so i’m not entirely sure he could be called a “pugbreaker” as such. Trying to think of my favorite boss in here is difficult, but I suppose if I had to pick one, it would be Baron Ashbury (the first one, in case you’re like me and the names all kinda run together in here). I’m not sure why, but there was always a sense of urgency with the first boss and him draining every last bit of your health. It was very heal intensive, and the DPS had to be on the ball to kill him quick enough when he started spamming his shadow nova.

So that is all of the original heroics. Now to sum it up a little bit, i’m going to give some general “awards”. Remember, all of these are from pre-nerf bosses.

Hardest heroic boss: Admiral Ripsnarl (Deadmines)

Easiest heroic boss: General Husam (Lost City of the Tol’Vir)

Hardest trash in a heroic: Grim Batol

Easiest trash in a heroic: Lost City of the Tol’Vir

Most difficult overall heroic: Stonecore

Easiest overall heroic: Lost City of the Tol’Vir

 

Runeforging, and other things.

12 Sep

The other day, four Blizzard developers did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), similar to their twitter Q&As from a couple years ago. This allowed them to pick and choose through (what was undoubtedly) a mass influx of questions ranging from all topics. The full transcript, sorted by each dev’s answers can be found here, but I do want to make special mention of one particular question/answer combo (that should be) of interest to every death knight out there…

A while back you guys said that “Runeforging will get some changes to make it less boring.”, but we have yet to see or hear anything about this. Is this something still being looked into? Or was it scrapped entirely?

As with many things, if we can’t do something right, we end up not doing it (yet). We still aren’t close to satisfied with the Runeforging system as it currently stands, but we also didn’t have an overhaul to that system that we were happy with. It’s a feature we’re still discussing and working on.

So, naturally I have *no frickin clue* what they could do with Runeforging, but I do have an idea that they SHOULD implement.

For one thing, I think a “rune tracing” idea is long overdue. Something in the same line as enchanting scrolls have basically helped overhaul the profession entirely, rune scrolls could help overhaul runeforging entirely. But this would also generate a problem, if you get inside of Blizzard’s mind… This would make Acherus almost entirely redundant. The only reason anybody would go there would be to switch specs at some point. Honestly, is that such a bad thing? Do we really NEED Acherus anymore after we’ve broken free of the scourge at the Battle of Light’s Hope?  Personally, I would welcome a chance to never need to go back there again. My death gate spell isn’t even on my bars anymore (and honestly, hasn’t been in a long ass time). Last time I went back there? To runeforge my Gurthalak and Experimental Speciman Slicer. Last time I went there before that? When I unlearned my 2h frost spec and plugged a blood spec back in there (January maybe?)…

Now then, a lot of my search hits lately have come from people talking about “Blood Boil”.. I suppose that kind of makes sense, considering the title of an earlier post from a couple weeks back, but I’ve noticed a theme. A lot of people are saying (or at least google searching) that Blood Boil hits harder than Heart Strike, or that Blood Boil is overpowered, or that blood AOE is over powered, and varied and sundry other wordings, misspellings, and queries, exclamations, proclamations, and filth-ridden googleings that led people here.  I was pretty certain that I had touched on this before, but I realize that I didn’t give any sort of proof to back up my claims. This is where skada comes in. I tanked normal Dragon Soul the other night (wednesday), and these are the numbers I got from the entire evening… from the first trash pull just inside the doors, until we gave “Destroyer’s End” to a couple of 3rd or 4th alts.

I didn’t screenshot the numbers, Over the course of an entire DS normal run -

Blood Boil accounted for 6.5M damage, Heart Strike accounted for 3.6M.

BB had a smaller damage range (4.7k-33.6k), averaging 10.4k

HS had a lower minimum (1.8k) and a higher maximum (37.2k) with a higher average (14.7k)

Those numbers DO include Madness (i forgot to snapshot the numbers after spine), so they will be skewed a bit higher than normal, but the trend is going to be the same, at least at 85 with Dragon Soul normal gear (my DK is sitting at ilvl 394). Blood Boil does not hit harder than Heart Strike, and as such will not be preferable for single target other than when it’s free, or for refreshing diseases in between outbreaks. However, with HS’s limp-noodle-of-a-cleave, it IS preferable on 3+ targets though.

All that said, IS blood boil a little overpowered? Hrmm… maybe a bit, but I think it’s more that heart strike is UNDERpowered in comparison. HS just isn’t always a compelling enough choice to hit, even on single targets, because of the disease refresher mechanic. Of course, theoretically, you still have outbreak every 1 minute, so if you had REALLY bad luck with procs, you would only need to “force” a refresh every when it’s on cooldown, and then only once (because durations are hard).

Good Night, and Good Riddance

11 Sep

Two weeks until Mists of Pandaria goes live. Can you believe that shit? I think I am going to take a break from the useful information posts and get back to babbling a little bit.

I’m sitting here talking to Kia about it, and she made the comment that it seems like we’ve been waiting for it for 6 months. The more I think about it, the more I realize that she’s not too far off. See, as far as Stands In Bad is concerned, Cataclysm as an expansion has basically been over since February, when we first killed Deathwing. Or perhaps you could say it ended in April, when our lone rogue got her Fangs of the Father legendaries. I think what hit our guild the hardest was the May 15th release of Diablo III, and the vacancy (read: gaping vacuum) it left in our guild ranks for a while. Our guild-wide server move back in June did help bring some prodigal children back, and of course patch 5.0.4 definitely saw a lot of people crawling out of the woodwork, but I digress.

No doubt, the end-of-expansion burnout is a real thing. I felt it, my guildies have felt it, it’s nothing new. I do, however, want to take a minute to look at what was different this time around versus the last couple of go-rounds.

  • Dragon Soul, the last raid of Cataclysm was patched into the game on November 29 of last year. Mists of Pandaria goes live September 25.  That is a 10 month gap with absolutely no new content (save the pre-expansion patch).
  • Ruby Sanctum, the last raid of Wrath of the Lich King was patched into the game on June 22, 2010. Cataclysm launched December 7, 2010. That is only a 5 1/2 month gap of no new content. Even if RS was/is considered a stop-gap, or a holdover raid, it was still new content before the expansion.
  • Sunwell Plateau, the last raid of Burning Crusade was patched in, March 25, 2008. Wrath of the Lich King launched November 13, 2008. That leaves a (nearly) 8 month gap of no new content.

So, the first thing you notice is that Cataclysm will have gone the longest with absolutely no new content patched in. (Vanilla is a whole different, discombobulating story… and I didn’t play then anyway ;D) So it seems natural, of course, that this particular waiting game seems more miserable than those before it… right? Well… maybe. Let’s take a look at what ELSE came in with these patches.

  • Dragon Soul’s patch brought with it 3 new instances (End Time, Hour of Twilight, Well of Eternity), the introduction of the controversial (yet undeniably popular) “Looking for Raid” tool, and the obscenely popular Transmogrification/Void Storage abilities.
  • Ruby Sanctum’s patch the epically questionable Real ID feature to life. No other new content.
  • SWP’s patch brought with it the Isle of Quel’Danas daily hub (which had to be “taken back” in stages… a very cool idea that Blizzard tried to revisit in the Molten Front, but didn’t seem to pull off quite as neatly), and Magister’s Terrace along with it.

So, I think Cataclysm’s “final” patch brought arguably the most content to the game. (I *still* love the Isle of Quel’Danas though… I don’t even care) Theoretically, this should make that 10 month black hole easier to cope with, shouldn’t it? So what is it that makes this time around feel so much worse than the previous ones?

I think the biggest part, for me, is that Dragon Soul told the ending of a story I wasn’t very engrossed in in the first place. I didn’t want Garrosh to take over the Horde. I didn’t want to see Thrall get all green-skinned freaky with Aggra. I didn’t want to see the Dragon aspects lose their power and say “Welp, its your show now squishies… have fun with it!” And most of all, I didn’t really care what the hell happened to Deathwing. Cataclysm’s biggest failing, to me, was Wrath’s biggest success… Tying the entire story together, and making the player *care* about wtf is going on. Y’know what Deathwing is to me? He’s a Godzilla. He’s an angry, flying lizard who flew around Azeroth for a year torching cities and giving people stupid achievements that they could get by rolling into LFR and dying on Spine or Madness anyway (which is an almost certainty with most pugs nowadays).

Putting together the actual dragon soul, and helping the aspects empower it to use against Deathwing inside the raid was kind of cool. The dialogue was well done (Blizz has never been at a shortage for top quality voice acting), and there seemed to be legitimate urgency with the task we were given, but y’know what? I honestly didn’t care much about Deathwing. He didn’t have any motivations other than to destroy the world. And yeah, I get it… A dead old god drove him insane by whispering in his brain for many years and blah blah blah… but does insanity mean a character has to be stripped of all his interesting qualities? Just look at Arthas. He had been driven mad by Frostmourne’s voice for all those years, sitting on the frozen throne, dwelling on what happened to his home, and everything he had become. There’s no question, in my mind, that Arthas was insane by the time you broke Frostmourne at the end of the Lich King encounter, but he was still an *amazing* character.

Recently, I went and finished up Loremaster on my druid. Northrend was my last continent to clear out as I went along the way, and I have to say that the storyline in each zone was magnificent… and yet each zone was tied in to the next (sometimes, with great subtlety, I admit), and all of them were overarching and pointing in one direction… Icecrown. From discovering the corruption of the Vrykul in Howling Fjord and helping Thassarian rescue his sister in Borean Tundra, to helping the Avatar of Freya combat the scourge coming down the mountains in Sholazar Basin and re-discovering Arthas’ long-lost (and presumed dead) friend Muradin in the Storm Peaks. Everything ties in together, and drives you forward to wanting to make that sonofabitch pay for what he’s done. And the Icecrown Citadel raid was the perfect cap to such a long journey.

Dragon Soul had none of that. None of the Cataclysm zones had the feel of pushing you towards your final confrontation with Deathwing. Hell, some of them i’m *still* not entirely sure what they had to do with the overarching story (Uldum had about 2 quests with some vague indication of “Here, there be dragons”, and that’s about it). There was just no compelling reason to kill Deathwing other than “Oh, he flew around and gave me an achievement for inconveniencing me for 5 minutes”. It was disjointed, disconnected, and dammit I just didn’t care enough. I seriously hope that the Blizzard storytelling team takes a look back at what worked in Wrath, and applies it forward into Mists of Pandaria, because honestly… I haven’t felt much compelled as a character to do anything since our guild cleared Bastion of Twilight.

The Big Book of Blood DKs

6 Sep

With 5.0.4’s recent release, and random spigots of incorrect or simply mistaken information, I thought that I would go and give a full on “How to Blood DK” guide for 5.0.4 and beyond (barring any weird changes that may be patched in). I shall warn you now… this may be a VERY wordy post. Also, this is geared to level 85s

“Wat buttan does I hit?”

Blood DKs abilities have changed very little from before-to-after 5.0, but the way you weave them into battle may be different than what you’re used to. Let’s start with our “rotational” priorities.

1st – Diseases (Frost Fever/Blood Plauge). These can be applied by either using Outbreak (1m cooldown), or Icy Touch and Plague Strike respectively. To be honest, you shouldn’t ACTUALLY be hitting Icy Touch/Plague Strike very often (more on that later). Any time you are facing any enemy, these diseases should be on them. Strive for as high of an uptime as you can possibly manage.

2nd – Death Strike (Blood Shield). Death strike’s purpose is two-fold. It heals back a percentage of damage we received over the last 5 seconds, (minimum of 7% of your max health), and creates an absorption shield equaling a percentage of the amount healed. (This absorption shield is made bigger by your Mastery stat, more on that later). Also, if you’re not actively tanking, the more death strikes you do, the bigger shield you have built up for when you have to take the boss back.

3rd – Free Blood Boils or Death and Decay – This is going to be a personal choice here. If your diseases have a long duration remaining, and Death and Decay is off cooldown, it is a dps gain to use it. If the diseases have less than half of their duration (under 15s), use Blood Boil to refresh them. The idea here is that free buttons are free damage, and free damage is never bad, except when it interfere  with your survivability (thus Death Strike ahead of BB/D&D).

4th – Rune Strike – Depending on which level 75 talent you picked, Rune Strike is always going to be what triggers it. More rune strikes means more regenerated runes, meaning more death strikes, meaning bigger shields and/or more healing.

5th – Heart Strike/spent Blood Boil – Heart strike is going to be where the majority of your actual blood runes go on single target fights. That said, because of Crimson Scourge, there is nothing wrong with using Blood Boil to refresh your diseases in between Outbreak cooldowns. Up to three targets at once, you’ll still want to use your blood runes on Heart Strike. More than 3 targets, and you can use them on Blood Boil.

6th (or whenever you have downtime) Horn of Winter – This gives you 10 runic power when you use it, and ensures that you’re always hitting buttons, as well as keeping the buff up (if you’re the one responsible for it… if you’re not, it’s still good for the free runic power).

Diseases > DS > Free BB/D&D > RS > HS/BB > HoW. Diseases are the most important to your survival because they apply the Weakened Blows debuff to any enemy, and reducing their damage output right from out of the gate is the single best thing you can do for mitigation. Death Strike is unique in it’s both reactive and proactive abilities. It heals you up, as well as gives you a shield (which only applies to physical damage, but it’s still very important). Blood Boil is simply a way to make sure your diseases are constantly rolling. Rune Strike is how you make sure you have as many runes returned through your regeneration gambits as possible. Heart Strike is purely a DPS button really. Horn of Winter keeps a buff up on your raid, and provides you a minor amount of RP, so you can rune strike more.

“OMG How I not die?!”

Death Knights have *absurd* amounts of defensive cooldowns at their disposal, and are easily one of the most survivable classes, both independently, and in a group situation. A well-played blood DK can keep a group going long enough on an unexpected healer death for that battle rez to fire off, whereas other tanks might simply melt away going “OMG HEAL ME NUB?!”

Icebound Fortitude – Reduces ALL damage taken by 50%, lasts 12 (3 glyphed) seconds. 3 minute (90 seconds glyphed) cooldown.

Anti-Magic Shell – Absorbs 75% (100% glyphed) of magic damage done, up to 50% of the DK’s health. Absorbed damage generates Runic Power. Lasts 5 seconds, 45 second cooldown. (Note: the tooltip says 50% of the DK’s health, and I assume it means 50% of the DK’s *maximum* health. I am looking in to it to be certain though).

Dancing Rune Weapon – Mirrors the DK’s attacks for 12s, and grants an extra 20% parry chance for the duration. 90 second cooldown.

Vampiric Blood – Temporarily increases max health by 15%, increases healing recieved by 25% (or, simply increases healing recieved by 40% glyphed) for 10 seconds. 1 minute cooldown.

Bone Shield – Reduces ALL damage taken by 20%, lasts 5 minutes or until 6 charges are depleted. 1 minute cooldown. (It’s worth noting that this no longer costs an unholy rune. It’s arguably worthwhile to just use this on cooldown, as it lasts a pretty solid amount of time)

Rune Tap – Converts 1 Blood (or death) rune into 10% of your health. 30 second cooldown.

Army of the Dead – Summons an army of ghouls over 4 seconds. While channeling, the DK takes % less damage equal to his dodge + parry chance. (so if you’re at 15% dodge, 15% parry, you take 30% less damage for those 4 seconds). 10 minute cooldown.

Empower Rune Weapon – Empower your rune weapon, immediately restoring all runes from cooldown, and giving 25 runic power. 5 minute cooldown.

No other tank, to my knowledge, has THIS MANY DIFFERENT BUTTONS you can hit when you’re in trouble, or when you know there’s trouble coming, or to recover from OH DEAR GOD SHITSHITSHIT moments. I included “Empower rune Weapon” in this list, because one of my favorite past-times (especially when soloing things) is to wait till i’m in trouble, hit Vampiric Blood, death strike twice, ERW, and death strike two more times. That will fill your health bar more than enough to let the healers stop hyperventilating.

“Wat gear does I wear?”

One of the things that 5.0 changed, dramatically, for death knights is the importance of hit/expertise. Previously, even if Death Strike was dodged, parried, or missed, we would still lose our runes and receive the healing/shield from it. Currently, that’s not the case, but to help combat this, Death Strike can now only be dodged, not parried. What this means to us, is that Expertise is important up to the parry cap. A lot of websites will show you some bizarro stat priority that is something along the lines of:

Mastery >= Stamina > Dodge/Parry > 7.5% Hit/7.5% Expertise.

I don’t entirely buy this line of thinking, and i’ll tell you why. If Mastery (blood shield) is our most important stat (and it is), then why do we place such a de-emphasis on hit and expertise. In very low gear levels at 90, it’s VERY possible that a death knight is going to find himself with absolute shit for hit and expertise. And this means that our mastery is useless because we’re going to get our death strikes missed and dodged all over the place, which DIRECTLY translates into our best survivability tool. So, why are we forsaking hit and expertise again?  Now, don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying we should completely forsake dodge and parry to reach hit cap either, but the trick is to find a balance. I recommend shooting for between 4-5% hit and expertise before loading up on the dodge and parry. Especially now at 85, our gear levels can readily sacrifice some dodge/parry for hit/exp without giving up survivability. For me, the more “realistic” stat priority is probably closer to this:

Mastery > 4% Hit/4% Expertise > Dodge/Parry >= Stamina > 7.5% Hit/7.5% Expertise.

You’ll also notice that I moved stamina down from being 2nd in priority. As it is, DKs already get a MUCH bigger stam bonus than other tanks do, so prioritizing it so high (in gems and enchants) strikes me a quite a bit wonky. I would put it roughly on par with dodge/parry, possibly even a bit below it. That may be more personal preference than the rest of the stats.

Blurring the line between DPS gear and Tank gear

When you’re looking for gear pieces, you always want to pick something that has either mastery, dodge, or parry. Occasionally, you’ll see pieces with Mastery/Hit, or Mastery/Expertise on them. Y’know what? I would pick those pieces up too. Mastery is STILL your highest valued stat, and ignoring that is just plain silly. Besides, I already gave you my opinion on hit and expertise over dodge/parry ;D. That said, your biggest tell might come from socket bonuses. If something has a red socket, with a strength socket bonus, it’s most likely meant to be a DPS piece (but not always! Stand up for yourself in your knowledge that YOU KNOW your stat priorities). I can show you several pieces right now (coming out in Mists) that have dodge or parry on them, but still have a strength socket bonus. Why? Who the hell knows, but there it is. Anyway, ignoring socket bonuses is a time honored tradition for tanks anyway, so feel free to roll need on that Exp/Mast gear, and load it up with the Fractured gem of your choice. All of that having been said, it is going to be up to your raid leader/loot council/whatever to decide if you need it more as a tank, or if the dps needs it more. Arguments can clearly be made in either direction here.

“How does I glyph?”

Glyphs are funny things these days. By and large, they are mostly a preference choice, or situational glyphs. So lets take a look at them starting with the major glyphs:

Anti-Magic Shell – this is pretty much the only one I would say is “mandatory” for tanks. Why take 25% of the magic damage, when you can take 0% of the magic damage? This is a no-brainer.

Dancing Rune Weapon – If you are having trouble generating threat, this one is a necessary glyph, but honestly unless you’re a fresh 85 running against DPS in full dragon soul gear, you SHOULDN’T have issues generating threat. The problem with this glyph is that it takes a couple globals to reach the 60 runic power needed for DRW, and you can’t rune strike while you’re banking that much. Since Rune Strike is our highest threat generating ability, this seems a bit… counter-intuitive. Situational at best.

Death Grip – An extra 5 yards of gripping range can be nice for you, but it’s hardly necessary. Preferential thing.

Icebound Fortitude – This is an interesting glyph choice, and can DEFINITELY be nice to have for situational boss fights. High damage in short bursts occurring regularly make this a nice glyph to keep in your book, along with some dust handy to throw in or remove depending on the fight.

Mind Freeze – We’ve spent all of Cataclysm with a 10 second interrupt cooldown, so 15 seconds probably feels weird as shit to us. This is a way to help combat that, some (reduces to 13s). I personally would *never* use this glyph because I am of the opinion that RP should be used for rune strikes. This will be another personal preference choice.

Outbreak – This is just a terrible choice for a glyph, if you ask me. Since Crimson Scourge was baked into a baseline talent ability, you should almost NEVER need this more often than every 60 seconds. Free blood boils that refresh diseases are one of the best things to happen to blood DKs in 5.0.4, and 40 RP is just way too high of a price to pay, for me, for having an ability i almost never hit after the start of a fight anyway.

Pestilence – This glyph has carried forward ever since the release of the DK class in Wrath, and ever since then, I have felt very hit or miss about this glyph. Is 5 extra yards useful? It can be, sure. Can it potentially get you into trouble as well? Sure. This glyph always has, and will always continue, to scream “personal preference”.

Shifting Presences – Another one of the nice, relatively unnoticed changes of 5.0 for DKs is that rune strike works the same way for blood spec, regardless of which presence you’re in. Now, of course, you lose stam and crit-immunity by shifting into frost or unholy presence, but you ALSO are far less likely to rip threat off your co-tank at inopportune times. This may be a worthwhile glyph to have for tank swap fights, but again, it’s all kinds of personal preference.

Unholy Command – This is a glyph I have grown to love the shit out of. Everytime your manage to get a killing blow, your death grip’s cooldown is reset. Chances are, you can strike one killing blow per trash pack, at least, so this glyph is SO awesome for 5-man groups.

Vampiric Blood – This is another glyph that has seen a great debate. A little bonus health, or some extra bonus healing? Guess what. This is a personal preference too. It always has been. Some people like having that 15% extra health as a buffer, some others like seeing the bigger green numbers over their head. It’s definitely something that’s worth keeping in your glyph list, just in case you wish to swap it out.

Are you seeing a recurring theme up there for the major glyphs? A lot of them are “Personal preference” or “Situational”. Hell *all* of them are, except for Anti-Magic Shell. This was Blizzard’s goal for overhauling glyphs, and I think it works beautifully for us. Now, let’s move on to the minors.

Actually, there’s only one minor glyph I really want to mention, because the rest are purely flavor glyphs (hooray for CORPSE EXPLOSION!)

Army of the Dead – I am of the opinion that every death knight in the history of ever should have this glyph in an active slot 100% of the time. Why? Well Army already doesn’t taunt raid bosses, so it’s not going to save THAT wipe. All it does is piss off the tank in 5-mans, and at worst, can cause you to play SPIN THE DRAGON, which leads to unnecessary breath damage and/or tail swipes. Get it, Glyph it, Love it.

“How does I talent?!”

I’ve already done several posts on the new talent tree, so I will try to keep this part somewhat brief. A lot of this is going to be (even more!) personal preference, or situational. Currently at level 85, this is the talent spec I am using. Generally, for progression, I will switch out Anti-Magic Zone for Lichborne to give myself *yet another* self-healing cooldown, but AMZ is generally more useful raid-wide on the fights in Dragon Soul.

For Level 15, on single target encounters, “technically” Plague Leech is the talent of choice, because it will let you rune tap on demand, and outbreak can drop diseases back on the target in a hurry. I stick with Rolling Blood, because right now, I just find it more useful. Also, it’s *amazing* to do some real AOE dps for once.

For Level 30, you probably want to avoid Purgatory until you have a *long* discussion with your healing team. In heavy profession I will switch out between AMZ and Lichborne. It depends on whether there’s more call for raid-magic damage, or tank painful ouchy damage. Personal choice here.

For Level 45, this is another personal choice, but I feel that Death’s Advance will, by and large, be your best bet the majority of the time. Asphyxiate is clearly meant as a pvp talent (and probably to stoke a bit of nerdgasms about force choking), so it’s usefulness is limited. Chillblains is situational at best, but there are other classes that are much better suited to kiting than a tank.

For Level 60, Death Pact is the clear winner. It’s a 2 minute cooldown (which lines up with your Summon Ghoul cooldown) and restores 50% of your health in one go. If you have 2 globals to pull it off, or you KNOW there’s a big hit coming that you can prepare for, this can be an absolute wipe saver. It really comes down to knowing the encounter. Death Siphon is wonky because it uses a death rune, and those are almost ALWAYS better used for Death Strike, and Conversion is just…. I don’t even know.

For Level 75, the debate rages on. I have become a big proponent of Blood Tap. I loves it. It feels so smooth in our rotation, and it’s a *smart* button, that you can macro into EVERYTHING. By “smart button” I mean that if there’s not a rune for it to regenerate, if you hit the button, it won’t waste those 5 charges. However, if you’re used to the rune-gaming that Runic Empowerment brings along, feel free to take that. There’s nothing wrong with either choice. RE has the *ability* to gain more runes than Blood Tap, but it also has the ability to gain less… this is part of the problem when dealing with RNG systems, and why I like Blood Tap so much. Your mileage may vary, of course.

“Wat is dis runeforge thing?”

Runeforging has never been a very complicated thing for DKs. There’s always been one choice for DPS, and one of two choices for Tanks, depending on several factors. This hasn’t changed any with 5.x. In spite of some reports to the contrary, Rune of Swordshattering still does not suffer from diminishing returns, and is a pure 4% parry chance. Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle is the rune that provides better effective health via stamina and armor. Both of them are perfectly legitimate options for tanks of all gear levels, and both of them continue to scale well with gear (although SSG might have a bit of a sharper curve. It starts off weaker at low gear levels, and improves much more strongly as your stamina and armor improve). There’s really not any wrong choice between the two, and you can pick either without looking like a nub. Don’t put Rune of the Nerubian Carapace on though… because I *will* point and laugh.

Now then. 3 thousand words on blood DKs, with changes more than likely to come at some point or another, and updates and yadda yadda. I felt like I had to put this all for several reasons.

A – Seriously, most of you people come here for Blood DK stuff, and end up looking at my posts that are several months old with outdated beta info.

B – I’ve been to several different “theory-heavy” sites, and not all of them say the correct things. Hell, not even all of them say the SAME incorrect things. I felt compelled to set the record straight on some things (BONE SHIELD DOESN’T COST A FUCKING RUNE ANYMORE PEOPLE. HOW DID NO ONE ELSE NOTICE THAT?), and give my own PERSONAL experience with others, instead of going with what the sims and theorycrafters have only pitted and postulated about. Empirical evidence. Or something, I dunno. (gimme a break, i’m running out of words here)

C – Navimie took a comment out of context, and now picks on me that I don’t care about my readers. Clearly this is not the case because I’M DOING THIS FOR ALL OF YOU AS MUCH AS MYSELF. In spite of this, she’s actually a VERY nice person… more on this at a later date.

D – I will admit to getting pretty excited when I see large amounts of blog hits, which I have been getting lately. I don’t write BECAUSE I WANT BLOG HITS OMG, but the traffic is a wonderful side effect, and it makes me feel good to know that people are giving a solid shit about what I have to say. Plus, I feel like my point of view, while not necessarily unique, has it’s own unique voice to lend to certain situations.

Suffer well, or something like that. In case you couldn’t figure it out, i’ve decided on my main for Mists :D

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