Raiding Spotlight: Raid Composition

20 05 2009

Every once in a while, I’ll try to take a detailed look at a specific element of the raiding game. Today in the spotlight: 25-man raid composition.

Unlike raiding in previous eras of WoW, a 25-man raid composition is more about getting 25 people together without the server crashing. There are still a few ways in which a completely mishmash group can fail, and I’ll try to outline the most common pitfalls.

Too many melee/not enough melee

This was much more important in Naxx than Ulduar, which is a bit strange, since I’m so used to fights being hard on melee while allowing ranged to hang out and cast things. There are a few exceptions, like Hodir, who will frost nova and therefore can hit large clumps of melee more effectively than spread out ranged DPS. There are no fights like Kel’Thuzad, where having more than 4-5 melee became extremely irritating.

Mimiron is one example of a fight that is much easier for melee, for a few reasons. First, the laser barrage is infinitely easier to avoid when all you have to do is run right through the boss rather than strafe around him. Second, he shoots lasers only in front of him, making surviving as a melee DPSer much easier. In sum, having a mix of ranged and melee is nice, but having too many of one or the other is not critical for Ulduar raiding (as long as it’s not too lopsided, like 1 melee to 14 ranged or something).


Some classes will die more often in raids. Compare Death Knights to Mages. Relevant differences here include Death Knights having about 8k more HP, AMS, IBF (other cooldowns depending on spec, Bone Shield or Vampiric Blood), and wearing plate. Mages have Ice Block, Mana Shield, and Invisibility, all of which are less effective and have drawbacks. Compare Mana Shield to AMS; one takes away resources, one grants resources. AMS probably absorbs more damage, and the restriction on being magic damage can be overlooked since there are very few examples of physical AoE (XT’s Tympanic Tantrum being the only one I can think of at the moment).

So while Mages may be able to put out excellent DPS, they’re also more likely to die if something goes wrong or they get put in Ignis’ “hot pocket.” As a result of these and other survival discrepancies between classes, having too many Mage-type classes (those with little to no ability to prevent/reduce incoming damage) to Death Knight-types can result in more deaths and less overall DPS. Especially when learning new fights.

Raid cooldowns

  • Every raid should have a Shaman. Heroism is invaluable and probably the single most important individual spell cast in a given boss encounter (see my earlier post here about it)
  • Rebirths: the more the better. Don’t be afraid to run with multiple Druids (my guild often has 7~, of varying roles). This goes hand in hand with Innervates – the more Feral Druids and Boomkins you have, the better the benefit for your healers.
  • You want one Warlock, at least. Stacking them isn’t as good as it was because you only get one Healthstone now, and they, unlike Druids, have only one role to fill. Soulstones are also less effective than Rebirths, so multiple Warlocks are even less effective than Druids.


These are the main buffs you want for a 25-man, with some leeway depending on whether you are caster or melee heavy, with an accompanying list of the classes/specs that can provide the buff/debuffs in question. (Extra-important stuff in bold)

  • Arcane Brilliance – Mage only
  • Gift of the Wild – Druid only
  • Prayer of Fortitude – Priest only
  • Paladin Blessings – 3 Paladins is the best number, so that classes with both mana and a need for attack power get the most benefit; 4 if one of the Paladins is Protection-specced
  • 10% AP – MM Hunters, Blood DKs, Enhancement Shamans
  • 20% melee haste – Frost DKs, Enhancement Shamans (other Shamans can provide a 16% melee haste buff)
  • 3% raid damage – Ret Paladins, BM Hunters (not sure if these stack or not, guessing not)
  • 13% spell damage – Warlocks, Unholy DKs (the best applier of this debuff due to the combination of Ebon Plague/Pestilence), Boomkins
  • Replenishment – Frost Mages (lol?), Ret Paladins, Shadow Priests, Survival Hunters
  • 5% melee crit – Feral Druids, Fury Warriors
  • 5% spell crit – Elemental Shamans, Moonkin Aura, Fire Mages, Destruction Warlocks
  • 155 Str/Agi – Death Knights, Shamans (Enhancement Shamans get a buffed version if they spec into it)
  • 3% spell hit – Shadow Priest, Boomkins
  • 3% increased healing taken – Protection Paladins, Restoration Druids

As you can see from the spread of buffs, stacking some classes (e.g. Druids) is more forgiving than having lots of, say, Mages. You don’t need all of these (having at least all the bolded ones would be best), and you’ll likely have a good amount of them even if you don’t pay much attention to your raid composition. For those who love to min/max, this raid-building tool might help.

My guild happens to have an overabundance of two classes, Mages and Druids. We still get along fine, in addition to having a rather large number of Rebirths available to smooth over learning fights. There’s no need to be extremely choosy over who gets into your raid and who doesn’t (thinking solely of class rather than a player’s individual skill, which should obviously weigh into the decision as well), but there are still enough differences between classes, the most important of which, to me, is survivability, to make some forethought on the subject valuable to raid leaders.

As an addendum, I apologize to any Mages whose feelings I hurt by bashing you over the head with what I perceive as the weaknesses of your class. Sorry, guys and girls. (My alt is a Mage, if it makes you feel any better.)

I wish I was a Death Knight. They're so cool.

I wish I was a Death Knight. They're so cool.

Woops, It’s Really 3.1.2…

19 05 2009

When I posted a while back about “3.2” Frost rotations, I forgot that this patch is not Icecrown, but in fact 3.1.2, a minor patch that went live today. If you haven’t heard, you can read about the changes over at MMO-Champion. Since I made the previous post, I have gotten a few new pieces of gear, notably replacing my t7.5 chest with the t8.5 piece. This means that I’ve broken my 4-piece t7 bonus and now, for tier pieces, am using the t7.5 boots, shoulders and legs, t8 hat, and t8.5 chest. The 2-piece bonuses are not the most exciting things in the world, but I wanted to start getting used to a new, IT-heavier rotation.

I thought I would miss the RP from Obliterates more than I do, but the current rotation that I use only has 2 Obliterates per rotation and replaces the RP gain with the use of Death Runes on IT (IT glyph provides the RP). For reference, here’s the priority system that I’m running (like I said earlier, I suck at sticking to a static rotation):

  1. Frost Fever
  2. Frost Strike (if Killing Machine or too close to RP cap or all runes on cooldown)
  3. Blood Plague
  4. HB (if AoE is required)
  5. Obliterate (with Frost/Unholy Runes, not Death)
  6. Blood Strike
  7. IT (Death Runes up)
  8. HB (Rime proc)

After going to a few raids (two nights of Mimiron, one on 10man one on 25), I’ve found that Unholy Presence (UP) makes it a lot easier to run this rotation. In most Ulduar fights, if using Blood Presence (BP), it’s basically impossible to use up all your GCDs with this spec. You generate too much RP with the combination of the IT glyph and soaking it through timely use of AMS. When I used BP with the HB rotation, I could never use up my RP fast enough when I popped AMS to absorb Flame Jets or what have you.

Incremental magic damage like Flame Jets, Frozen Blows and Heat Wave are so perfect for UP, while BP will just end up wasting the RP by getting capped before you can use it up. Since these spells will tick every second, you’ll be able to FS along with each tick of RP AMS gives you. The damage increase is quite nice. In addition, you get the 15% run speed that is invaluable, at least on fights like Mimiron where you are running all over the place. The benefit of run speed isn’t solely in being able to get out of the fire faster, but also in returning to melee range 15% faster.

That said, it takes some practice to get used to running in UP if you haven’t before. I’m a little unfamiliar with it because since 3.1 I’ve been using BP, but before that I used the ITx6 rotation with Death Rune Mastery to produce tons of RP. The idea is the same, but with this rotation you’re substituting DRM for Virulence and 2 ITs for an Obliterate. If you’re encountering significant downtime, especially in the first rotation, try popping Death and Decay + Horn of Winter right before you engage, or even asking a Resto Druid specced into Revitalize to toss you a Rejuv. As fights progress, you’ll often be moving in and out of things and absorbing enough RP with AMS to make Unholy Presence worth the loss of BP’s 15% damage boost.

If you absolutely hate DPSing in UP, try BP and look at how often your runes sit ready while you dump RP. Or remember the times when you were just on the edge of getting out of Shock Blast, and wished you were wearing Nitro Boosters on your feet. It might convince you to give UP a try.

In other words, RIP HB glyph rotation. I miss you.

Run away little girl! Haha, I didn't say Simon says. You lose.

Run away little girl! Haha, I didn't say Simon says. You lose.

Ulduar etc.

19 05 2009

ulduar Ulduar is a great raid instance, from what I’ve seen of it. The main problem I have with the place is that it, like other Wrath instances, is split into a 10 and 25 man version. In my opinion, 10-man raids often feel more fun. It’s easier to communicate, not as laggy, among other good things. I don’t see the benefit of having two versions of the same instance versus a different raid altogether. Variety, my friends, is indeed the spice of life. So despite the fact that Ulduar is way way way way better than Naxx, and consequently more like BWL and BC raids, the general atmosphere of raiding feels lacking.

How did BC and pre-BC raiding differ from the Wrath situation?

In vanilla WoW, the progression path was typically from the 20mans to MC/Onyxia to BWL to AQ40/Naxx. This meant that any guild had to be a 40-man raiding guild to get the highest tier of gear. In essence, this didn’t change in BC when you had to be raiding BT, Hyjal and Sunwell to get tier 6 stuff. Blizzard’s new philosophy is wanting to make the raid content (at least the normal modes) available to everyone. But to me there’s no comparison between having a Karazhan and a Magtheridon and having a Naxx25 and Naxx10. Two different instances always wins out.

Gear progression works the same way, except now a whole tier (ilvl 219 gear from Ulduar 10) is wasted, in addition to valor badges that will do absolutely nothing since anyone raiding the 10man Ulduar will be getting better gear. Those raiding Ulduar 25 can effectively skip the 10-man version, instead going from normal mode to hard mode. Does this system have any advantage over, say, creating two raid instances, one 10man and one 25man?

Hard modes are there so we’ll do them…

But they won’t compare to knowing that there’s a whole other instance waiting once you finish the current one. I remember when I played my Resto Druid in pre-BC days and my guild finally downed Ragnaros. The next raid night, we were in BWL. We were moving up, to bigger and newer things. This feeling is basically nonexistant for me in Wrath. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Ulduar and raiding it is a lot of fun (partially due to how awesome my guild makes it). But to me, “progression” doesn’t mean the same thing anymore. Now it feels more like it’s about gear than feeling ready to explore a whole new place.

Ulduar reminds me a lot of BWL anyways

To me, BWL represents the best aspects of WoW raiding: variety in both trash and boss fights and interesting mechanics (except for the 3 drakes, who were a tad dull). Naxx was the opposite of this; its trashh was completely AoE-able and the bosses were glorified tank and spanks. Ulduar is a step forward, but I hope Blizzard returns to the old system of separate 10 and 25 man instances. 25man Ulduar is already harder than its 10man cousin, so what’s the benefit of having it be the same instance? Yes, it lets more people see the “top content” but if people were really motivated to see content, I think they’d get past the difficulty and take a peek around anyways.

Rotation vs. Priority System

16 05 2009
Oh no, I'm a melee friendly encounter! They're going to faceroll me!

Oh no, I'm a melee friendly encounter! They're going to faceroll me!

A while ago, I asked this question in the EJ Simple Questions/Simple Answers thread:

Is there a noticeable difference in DPS between using a priority system (I’m currently 2h frost specced, 20/51, so something like: Refresh FF > OB > weaving FS between strikes/when KM procs > HB on Rime procs > BS) and sticking to a strict rotation?

First, some definitions:

A “strict rotation” is theorycrafting up a sequence of abilities that, when mashed in order, make for good DPS. Note that this is not an excuse to use a /castsequence macro, since if you miss/have to move away in the middle of the macro, you are basically screwed. Here’s an example, from a previous post: IT – PS – OB – BS – BS / OB – IT – IT – OB (weaving FS between attacks). The idea is that if you use these abilities, in the set order, you’ll do excellent damage. The disadvantage of a rotation is that it’s a bit boring (to me) and can lead to some tunnel vision, being focused solely on hitting the correct buttons in the right order rather than on what’s going on around you.

A “priority system” is fairly self-explanatory. Give all possible abilities a priority, and use them in that order. Here’s an example, with 1 being the highest priority and going down from there (for a Frost Death Knight on a single-target fight).

  1. Frost Fever (applied either through Icy Touch, Pestilence or Howling Blast)
  2. Frost Strike (if RP would go over 130 or you have a Killing Machine proc or all your runes are on cooldown)
  3. Blood Plague (ignore this if you’re running a one-disease rotation, such as with the HB glyph)
  4. Howling Blast (if you have a Rime proc)
  5. Obliterate
  6. Blood Strike

The advantage of using a priority system is that it lets you react to anything that comes up with more ease than using a strict rotation. This is because when something interrupts your DPSing, when you get back to it you just evaluate what your next attack should be based on the priority system. The downside of this method is that it’s more difficult; you have to do a lot more quick thinking because, especially for frost, procs are random and can change what you want to do with your next GCD.

Personally, I find the concept of a set DPS rotation very hard to follow. I get distracted by moving out of the fire and any other element of a fight that pulls me off the boss or directs me towards killing adds. If you currently use neither of these systems (though even if you think you don’t, you probably have some kind of unconscious priority system), I urge you to try both and see which one better suits your playing/DPSing style. Note that Frost and Unholy rotations are more subject to randomness, due to the use of the Scourge Strike glyph and Frost’s various procs, when compared to Blood, whose only proc (Sudden Death) was changed to a free DC in 3.1.

Talents Can Be Deceiving

16 05 2009

Often, if a talent (or glyph) says something like “increases the damage of x by” or “decreases the cost of x by” it seems like a great talent automatically. Especially if x is a skill you use often. Sometimes this method of analyzing proves correct, such as in the case of Glyph of Frost Strike, which is incrediblawesome. Other times, looking at talents and glyphs this way can lead to bad decisions. Some talents are more subtle in the ways that they increase your DPS and so it can seem unintuitive to take them. For an example, I’ll compare two talents, Morbidity and Dirge, for an Unholy Death Knight.

Morbidity Morbidity isn’t all you crack it up to be

A 15% increase in damage to Death Coil, a spell that Unholy uses a lot, seems great. The yellow numbers you see will get bigger, and so hooray, more damage being done! That said, if you consider that on an average fight, Death Coil usually averages ~10% of your total damage, 15% of that doesn’t seem so exciting anymore. 3 talent points spent here will give you a 1.5% DPS increase (I’m only considering the Death Coil part of the talent because as DPS, you rarely need to AoE so often that the cooldown on DnD becomes limiting).

A general rule of thumb in taking talents for a DPS class is that a good talent point is worth roughly 1% DPS per point spent. Not all talents reach this standard, but at ~.5% per talent point, Morbidity is lower on the totem pole than some others (even Necrosis, despite its nerfs). Note that certain fights will skew the amount of damage a certain skill can do. Take Hodir, for example. This fight may bring Death Coil up from its usual ~10% of damage due to the Singed debuff that makes Hodir take more spell damage. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a talent that’s more consistently awesome.

spell_shadow_shadesofdarkness Dirge, on the other hand…

See this post on EJ by Methods, one of the more mathy-skilled posters. Basically, what he says is that in a typical Unholy rotation, Dirge will net you 1.19 RP per second. Not only does this lead to more Death Coils than you’d otherwise get (1 every 40 seconds), you also have more RP available in general. This will make it easier to activate AMS and IBF, both extremely useful in almost every raid encounter. I believe that Dirge is more of a must-have talent than Morbidity, although its benefits aren’t immediately obvious.

Think critically!

Similar reasoning is applied when Frost DKs using the HB glyph choose to spec into Epidemic rather than fill out Dark Conviction. On the surface, 4% crit seems pretty sweet. It’s important to note that 1% crit does not mean a 1% increase in DPS. It’s closer to around a .5-.6% increase. Running a rotation with the HB glyph is all about getting Rime to proc and refreshing Frost Fever essentially for free. Epidemic, while it doesn’t always help you do more damage like Dark Conviction does, gives you more time to wait for a Rime proc, the using of which increases your DPS.

Next time you see a talent that looks exciting, think about what benefits it offers and compare those to other available talents. Especially when some talents don’t obviously increase your damage output, like Improved Unholy Presence (IUP). This is a hotly debated talent because it’s effect on DPS is hard to quantify. Sometimes, moving faster will get you back into melee range quicker, letting you start hitting the boss again, which is a DPS increase. The most important aspect of IUP is that it will help you survive, whether you’re moving out of fire or onto a pile of snow, you’ll get there faster and take less damage overall. Personal preference comes into play here. If you feel like you don’t need much help running out of hazards, don’t bother with it. If you frequently die on the edge of something that’s hurting you, give it a try.

In my opinion, the ability to choose between talents based on personal preference is what makes the Death Knight a great class when compared to, say, a Retribution Paladin. Ret Paladins basically take every DPS-related/non-PvP talent available to them, so there isn’t a lot of wiggle room or choice involved. I enjoy playing with a talent calculator almost as much as actually playing!

How Not to Be a Fail Knight

14 05 2009

Similar questions have been posed by For the Horde and Gnomeageddon about their classes, each providing a list of typical class-related problems and solutions. So, what are some of the more difficult things to do as a Death Knight, in either PvE or PvP?

Timing Anti-Magic Shell (AMS)

In a raid, AMS performs two functions. First, it helps your healers by absorbing a lot of damage. Second, using it will often fill your RP bar to full (depending on what damage you’re taking). This makes it invaluable and, in Ulduar, usable on almost every cooldown. A couple of examples are Kologarn’s Shockwave, Hodir’s Frozen Blows, Ignis’ Flame Jets… the list goes on. Soaking up RP through AMS is helpful for all specs, though most of all Frost due to the uber-awesome nature of FS.

In PvP, AMS is more of a defensive cooldown. Save it for when your partner can’t heal/help you, or when you are being focused by spellcasters. If you’re going toe to toe with an opposing DK, AMS can give you an edge by preventing application of diseases as well as damage from DC, SS, and FS.

Balancing DPSing and Survival

In almost every Ulduar encounter, melee has to move to get out of something. Missiles, Overloads, Fire, Weird Glowy Stuff, etc. It’s not incredibly hard to just strafe sideways out of whatever is hurting you, but the problem remains that when you’re moving you may not be in melee range or even paying attention to your DPS rotation. So, when you’re running around avoiding whatever is ailing you, consider these things. Always remember, though, that survival comes first.

  1. You have ranged abilities. Use them.
  2. Don’t let your diseases fall off, even if you’re running in and out.
  3. Pay attention to your rune cooldowns. Do you have time before running back to the boss to use more than one rotation of ranged abilities?

The longer you’re away from a boss’s melee range, the more important it is to keep tossing ranged attacks and refreshing your diseases.

Macroing Rune Strike to Everything

For example:

/cast blood strike

/cast rune strike

This is great for levelling. You rarely need to do anything complicated with a mob and the faster you kill it the quicker you get to the next mob. In PvP and raiding (well, mostly tanking rather than DPSing) doing so can quickly become problematic. First, PvP. In the first arena I played with Rune Strike macroed to everything, I often found myself lacking the RP to cast AMS, IBF or Hungering Cold. Add to that the importance of keeping RP to DC if your opponenets are at range and macroing Rune Strike can be dangerous.

If you’re tanking in a raid, the same principles apply. You need to have RP available to use defensive cooldowns to survive. Rune Strike should always be secondary to your survival as you should be able to generate enough threat to keep the boss on you without it anyways. If you’re DPSing, macroing Rune Strike can be slightly beneficial since in certain fights (think the ton of little flower adds that Freya spawns) you have the opportunity to parry and dodge random attacks.

Using Your Cooldowns

Each DPS spec has cooldowns to increase damage, for 20-40s at a time. When is the best time to use them? A well-known saying applies: early and often. One caveat applies: many fights have specific phases where the boss takes extra damage or you need to pull off some burst damage. Some examples of this are XT, Emalon, Razorscale, hard-mode AoI (Steelbreaker does crazy things!), and the list probably goes on to bosses I have yet to experience. In these instances, save your cooldowns or at least time them so they’ll be up at the important times. In other fights, like Ignis and Kologarn, the fight is fairly constant and the more you use your cooldowns the more damage you’ll do.

The hardest cooldown to manage and use properly is Army of the Dead. There are places where it shines, doing about 100,000 damage if allowed to DPS one target without being distracted by shiny adds or AoE’d down by a brisk gust of wind. AotD ghouls will also taunt any non-boss (mobs that don’t have a skull where their level should be) thing in the area. As a result, you won’t want to use AotD on Ignis because of the importance of the OTs and dragging constructs around. On the other hand, Razorscale is the perfect fight to use army for these reasons:

  • You know in advance when you need an extra burst of DPS (landing at 50% or waiting for the final harpoon to be shot)
  • There are no (or very few) adds around during the DPS burst phases

Even if you’re DPSing, you should also remember your IBF as, in certain situations where you might take lots of physical damage (XT’s tantrums), it helps out your healers quite a bit. If you ever have to pinch tank, it’s good to pop your IBF to ease the transition (especially since you’ll already be taking extra damage from not being in tank gear/spec).

The hardest part of properly playing a Death Knight is to keep track of and efficiently use all of your resources. This goes for runes as well as cooldowns. Don’t get tunnel vision in either PvP or PvE, keep thinking, and you too can avoid being a Fail Knight.

Raiding Spotlight: Heroism

11 05 2009

Halp! When does I supposed to Heroism?

Halp! When does I supposed to Heroism?

Every once in a while, I’ll try to take a detailed look at a specific element of the raiding game. Today in the spotlight: Heroism.

Matticus in his column on WoWInsider recently espoused the value of communication, specifically between healers and tanks. Just as a priest needs to let tanks and other healers know when he plans to use cooldowns, such as Guardian Spirit, communication between the DPS can be equally beneficial.  This is especially true with regard to Heroism, probably the single most important spell cast in any given boss encounter. The timing of this spell can make or break a fight.

My guild leader often calls for (and uses, he’s a Shaman) Heroism to help the healers out at clutch moments. For example, if Iron Constructs start to get out of hand late in the Ignis encounter, that combined with flame jets can call for a lot of healing. Since the math has been done proving that timing it for execute effects (see this article over at Blessing of Kings, or if you’re math inclined, you can look here) doesn’t increase its effectiveness, when is a good time to pop Heroism? There are a few options:

  • Pop Heroism at the beginning of the fight when everyone has their DPS cooldowns/trinkets available
  • Use it at a clutch moment, such as a Heart phase on XT-002 (on any fight with short phases where it’s beneficial to have a large burst of DPS it is best to use this option)
  • Choose when to pop Heroism on a per-fight basis

The last option is what my GL uses, in combination with the 2nd when appropriate. The downside to this option is that DPS can’t be sure that their cooldowns will be up which somewhat reduces the effectiveness of Heroism. However, I still think that this is the best option. Blindly using Heroism at 35% doesn’t necessarily benefit healers the most. With Blizzard’s new design philosophy of having varying types of healing necessary in a single encounter (compare the heart phase of XT with adds to the duration of Tympanic Tantrum), making an intelligent, informed decision about when to use Heroism benefits healers more than any other option. Sometimes fights are a DPS race, and others based more on endurance.

That said, the raid leader should inform the raid as to what his plan for using Heroism is so that the raiders can prepare accordingly. Good communication between shamans, raid leaders and other raid members is the best way to maximize its effect.

What Runeforge Should I Use?

10 05 2009


NOTE: Updated for 4.0.1

From the limited data WordPress provides me on Google searches that lead to my blog, it seems people want to know what runeforge they should be using for DPS.


The reasoning behind using Fallen Crusader over the other enchants is that the +15% strength it provides (it was nerfed from 30%, but its ppm [proc per minute] was increased, which greatly increased its uptime) affects ALL the spells and strikes a DPS Death Knight will use. Cinderglacier and Razorice have a narrower scope and so are generally less useful.

For Frost Dual Wielding, you should be using Fallen Crusader on OH and Razorice on MH. Razorice on MH stacks it faster, while the proc rate for Fallen Crusader on MH/OH is the same.

Tanking is a different ball game

Stoneskin Gargoyle is the optimal choice here. 4% armour and 2% stamina? Yes please.

PvP is another metaphor describing how it’s different, almost like it’s a horse of a different colour

For BGs, I would suggest using Fallen Crusader due to the damage and healing. In arenas, however, Swordshattering is worth consideration due to cutting disarm time in half. If you face a disproportionate amount of warriors and rogues, Swordshattering could be a boon and worth losing the DPS/healing of Fallen Crusader. You’ll also get more Rune Strikes from the extra parry chance. That said, this is really only a good option if you know that you face more melee, especially rogues and warriors, than other classes. Against spellcasters this rune goes to waste, which is a large downside.

Spellshattering is simply not worth consideration. 4% spell damage isn’t all that important and you’ll most likely never get silenced, especially if you play with a healer as a partner. Mages/Spriests who think outside the box, or even opposing DKs might silence you on occasion, but it’s not threatening enough to be worth runeforging to prevent.

3.1.2 and Its Impact on Frost Rotations

9 05 2009

3.1.2 is on the PTR now, and while it’s not a huge patch for most players, it will affect the way DPS Death Knights play. Here are the two changes that I’ll be looking at:

Don't leave me!

Don't leave me!

  • Darkruned 2-Piece Set Bonus: The bonus critical strike chance for Frost Strike and Death Coil has been increased from 5% to 8%.
  • Scourgeborne 4-Piece Set Bonus: The runic power gain has been reduced to 5 runic power from 10 runic power.

The t7.5 4-piece bonus, in its live version, is incredible. Over a long fight, you can get as much as 5-600 RP from it depending on your rotation/spec (it’s called “Fingers of the Damned” in Recount/WWS). It’s worth more DPS than the t8.5 bonuses, which the math wizards over at Elitist Jerks (EJ) have determined is not a significant increase in DPS Frost. The main attack of a Frost Death Knight works off Runic Power, so this change has me a bit worried about my DPS going down. (For reference, I am currently playing with 13/51/7.) Since Frost Strike already has a crit rate of ~60% due to Killing Machine, another 8 isn’t a big deal.The 4-piece bonus is similarly unhelpful to Frost because the spec’s main attack is unaffected.

The HB glyph rotation will take the biggest hit from the nerf to t7.5. Unlike a rotation that includes IT/PS, an HB rotation does not get the extra RP generated from the IT glyph. Instead, it relies on generating extra Obliterates by using Rime procs to put up FF instead of spending runes on IT. This in turn generates a lot of RP from the t7.5 set bonus. For Frost DPSers, at least, the HB glyph will lose a lot of its lustre when 3.1.2 hits. I’ll have to start actually using pestilence again!

Speculation over this rotation has been going on in the Frost thread on EJ. The jury is still out on whether this rotation functions better in Blood or Unholy Presence.

IT – PS – OB – BS – BS / OB – IT – IT – OB (Weave FS between attacks in order to avoid capping RP and maximize Killing Machine procs)

The advantages of this rotation over HB are:

  • More RP generation (post 3.1.2 nerf)
  • Two diseases = more OB/BS damage

And the disadvantages:

  • Less effective AoE rotation compared to the HB glyph rotation (have to use Pestilence)
  • Requires more GCDs
  • IT eating KM procs (it’s much less of a loss to damage if HB eats a KM due to its higher damage)

Whichever rotation comes up as having higher single-target DPS will win out for me in the end, but I’ll be sad to see the HB glyph leave. It was so much fun. However, I am not annoyed at Blizzard for instituting the nerf to t7.5. Having it completely overshadow t8.5 bonuses was just not right, even if the new ones still suck for Frost.

I think Blizzard is still learning when it comes to creating set bonuses for Death Knights. Consider the situation in 3.08, where the dual wield spec (0/32/39 and its variations) dominated the DPS scene. Despite Blizzard’s assertion that they wanted DW to be viable, the t7.5 set bonuses did absolutely nothing to help the spec’s DPS. A very similar situation is going to happen with Frost and the t8.5 bonuses: Frost benefits less from an increased crit chance (due to the way KM works) and even less from a slight increase in the scaling of OB (only 20% of damage to begin with). Compared to Unholy and Blood, where disease-dependent skills (Heart Strike, Scourge Strike) make up a larger proportion of DPS).

Frost isn’t dead

It’s just changing. As it stands now, the HB glyph is going to be less effective in single-target DPS rotations, but still strong for tanks and AoE. If I didn’t PvP so much, I’d consider setting up an alt-spec with the HB glyph for certain encounters. I hope, as some EJ posters have suggested, that Blizzard makes the t8.5 set bonuses more beneficial to a Frost spec. One way would be to have the 2-piece increase the damage of FS/DC rather than the crit chance.

From Raiding to the Arena

8 05 2009

Out of line of sight! In line of sight! In sight of the line! Argh!

I’ll be honest, for a very long time while I played my druid and my first few months as a Death Knight, I abhorred PvP. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of Wintergrasp, arenas and BGs to get geared and help a druid friend of mine get one of the furious gladiator weapons. I won’t purport to be able to present strategies that will help you become an expert in PvP, because I’m still learning these kinds of things. I will, however, offer some advice on what I’ve found helpful in learning to be better in arenas.

1. Situational Awareness is different in arenas than raids

In a raid situation, situational awareness is largely related to your own survival. Stay out of the fire. Move out of the eyebeams. In an arena, you need to pay as much attention to your feet and the fire you may or may not be standing in as to those of your partner. I’m really only playing 2v2 with any seriousness, but one of my biggest failings so far (though hopefully it’s improving) was not being aware of what my partner was doing or what was happening to her. Love your minimap, keep track of your arena buddies and try not to LoS away from your healer. Learning when to use Death Grip or Chains of Ice to keep her safe from rogues and other dangerous things. This brings me to my next point.

2. The UI you use for PvE may not work for PvP

The UI and mods I use for raiding are largely set up to let me know when the boss is going to do the next thing. These events are typically on predictable timers and so you can often avoid them by thinking ahead and planning what you will be doing. You also rarely need to target more than one mob, and extra targets are usually tanked and so stay relatively stable. In an arena, this is not the case. You need to have a way to easily cast on 2+ (depending on the type of arena you play) targets as well as switching between them. This can mean setting up hotkeys to cast on a focus target or using Clique and a PvP unit frame (I use Gladius) to make casting easier. A mix of these is probably best so you can best protect

My UI in a raid.

My UI in a raid.

your partners by way of being able to cast, without searching for buttons or tab-targeting, Chains of Ice, Death Grip and Strangulate.

3. You need to learn a new kind of timing

In raids, it’s obvious when you have to interrupt, switch targets, or turn on Frost Presence. Kel’Thuzad casting Frostbolt? Time to Mind Freeze. One section of Mimiron going down faster than the rest? Switch targets. OT dead? Turn on Frost Presence and do your best to tank whatever’s loose. In an arena, you have to decide when to use Mind Freeze, Strangulate, as well as the spec-dependent abilities such as Gargoyle, Hungering Cold and Mark of Blood. Since these abilities all have CDs that feel like they take forever to end, managing them is important. Some tips:

  • Save strangulate for when you think you can achieve something important, like killing one of your opponents, within the duration of the spell.
  • Save Mind Freeze for important spells. This seems obvious, but I sometimes mistakenly interrupt a Restoration Shaman’s Lava Burst only to have him cast Lesser Healing Wave two seconds later.
  • Use Gargoyle when you are going to have at least 6-10 seconds of uninterrupted (i.e. not running around feared) burst on an opponent. Gargoyle is immensely helpful in killing healers
  • Don’t pop your PvP trinket (or Every Man for Himself, damn humans!) on just any stun. Save it for when you absolutely NEED to get out of it to save your partner or finish off a wounded opponent.

For every cooldown, there’s an appropriate time to use it in order to get the most out of the spell, whether it’s a simple Leap/Gnaw combo or the invaluable Empower Rune Weapon.

4. Macros are your friends.

For spells you cast a lot, like Chains of Ice, it may help to have macros set up that automatically cast on your focus target. For example:

/cast [target=focus] chains of ice

This macro will cast the aforementioned spell (or any other spell you want) on your focus target without you having to click unit frames and lose your current target. Macros like these save you time, which is worth a lot when you are trying to get a warrior to stop beating your healer’s face in with a big stick.

In conclusion, if you’re moving from raiding into arenas, like me, the switch can be quite jarring. My advice is to slowly start using more and more PvP-related mods and macros to give yourself time to get used to them. Just as moving your hotkeys around often can slow down or confuse your reactions, completely changing your UI or the way you play is hard to do all at once. Take time, enjoy the process, and kill some horde.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.