Expertise and You

22 05 2009

Expertise is one of the more confusing stats a DPSer has to look at, in my opinion. Less so than Armor Penetration, which seems to be going through changes daily. So what does it do, exactly? Expertise reduces the chance that a mob can parry/dodge your attack by a % depending on how much you have of the stat. To be fully “soft-capped” (read: pushing dodge off the table) you need 26 expertise (not rating). Since bosses can’t parry from behind, you don’t have to worry about that as a DPSer. It’s called a soft cap rather than a hard cap because a boss’s parry chance is something ridiculous like 18-19% and it’s simply not worth getting that much expertise. Different specs value this stat differently, and for different reasons. Let’s start off with Frost, because I love it so. Also, I’m only going to deal with 2-handed specs in this post because I have little to no knowledge about DWing and expertise.

Frost in Blood Presence

None of the theoretically highest DPS rotations being bandied about on EJ currently use Blood Presence, but I imagine at some point in the future it will rise again. In any case, when examining expertise, which only affects melee strikes (Frost Strike and Rune Strike excluded), the first step is to look at how many of a given spec’s abilities are actually affected by expertise. For Frost, these are (%s next to ability names are how much of total DPS they comprise in a fight)*

  1. Obliterate (~15%)
  2. Auto-attack (~20%)
  3. Blood Strike (~4%)
  4. Plague Strike (if using it in a rotation) (~3%)

*See here for the source of my numbers

So for Frost, a total of around 42% of your damage comes from abilities (or auto-attacks) affected by expertise. If you’re running in BP, it can be extremely detrimental to have an attack or two dodged, since you will often be low on GCDs (global cooldowns) and have little room to redo failed attacks. As a result, expertise is fairly valuable for this spec and worth considering as a factor in gearing up.

Frost in Unholy Presence

Expertise loses a great deal of its value when running in Unholy Presence due to the fact that you have so many more GCDs, and are often left with 1-2 seconds now and then with nothing to do. If you get dodged or parried, you lose much less time than in Blood Presence, and so expertise loses some of its value for UP rotations. Keep in mind, however, that your white damage, a fairly major component of damage, can’t recover damage lost to parries, so with more expertise your auto-attack damage will go up, if only slightly.

Unholy in Blood Presence

Unholy, similar to UP Frost, has more GCDs open than some other DPS rotations. This is largely due to spamming Scourge Strike, a two-rune ability rather than using lots of single rune attacks. Nevertheless, let’s look at how much of an Unholy DK’s damage comes from weapon strikes. Same format as above.

  1. Scourge Strike (~20%)
  2. Melee (~20%) (~22% with Necrosis)
  3. Blood Strike (~5)
  4. Plague Strike (~3.5%)*
  5. Blood-Caked Strike (~2%)

*See here for source.

So that’s around 52% of total damage, with the rest coming from Death Coils, Unholy Blight, DnD, diseases and Wandering Plague. Necrosis adds value to expertise because it’s always going to be 20% of your white damage, which as I said earlier scales with your pre-soft cap expertise. However, due to having a relatively loose rotation, capping expertise isn’t essential.

Blood in Blood Presence

Blood is in a similar situation to Frost when run in Blood Presence. Since Heart Strike is a single-rune ability, and the most-used in a Blood spec, GCDs are limited. It’s more valuable to Blood, however, due to the larger amount of physical damage that it puts out.

  1. Heart Strike (~24%)
  2. Melee (~21%) (+~3% for Necrosis)
  3. Death Strike (~11%)
  4. Plague Strike (~3%)
  5. Blood-Caked Strike (~3%)*

*See here for source.

So that’s around ~56% of damage. Since you’re using a lot of Heart Strikes, and running in Blood Presence, it’s of paramount importance to get as close as possible to the expertise cap so your rotation doesn’t get screwed up.

Expertise vs. Strength

Some people say that expertise is a preference call. Do you prefer knowing for sure that all your attacks will land, and so as a result have an easier rotation? Or would you rather hit harder when you aren’t getting dodged? When considering gear upgrades with or without expertise, it’s somewhat personal, but with regards to gemming you should always go for strength. Basically, don’t go too far out of your way for expertise unless you’re extremely low on it (below 15-ish you’ll get dodged a lot). Also, as a DK strength affects the damage of everything you do, where expertise only the physical stuff, which makes up somewhere around half (less for Frost) of your total damage. It also loses all value after the soft cap since you should always, always be standing behind a mob to DPS it. (Mobs can’t parry from behind.)

In closing, a sample of my artwork, somewhat related to this posting.

It certainly is.

It certainly is.

The Spamalot: ITx6 Rotation

21 05 2009

I recently espoused a newer Frost rotation, replacing the use of Obliterate on Death Runes with IT to increase RP generation. The next step, after the viability of using IT instead of Obliterate is confirmed (as it has been, both for me and EJ posters), is to start using this rotation, which generates even more RP but runs with only one disease. Here it is (also Unholy Presence):

IT – BS – OB – FS – BT – IT – FS – OB – BS / IT x6 (weave FS to avoid capping RP/take advantage of KM procs if you’re quick)

Watch this video. It explains it much better than I ever could. This is a much simpler rotation to manage in Unholy Presence, which can be quite intimidating especially if running two diseases. It uses this spec (it’s up to you whether you want to replace 3 points of Dark Conviction with 3 points in Virulence). My advice to anyone planning to DPS in UP is to practice on dummies for a good 10 minutes with every new rotation you’re picking up. Unlike Blood Presence, you don’t have a generous 1.5s GCD between every ability. Nevertheless, this rotation is easier to manage to to half the rotation being one spell and not having to worry about Blood Plague.

Not what Blizzard intended

This rotation was the best for Frost pre-3.1 (DW aside). It was then nerfed into what we thought was oblivion, and set aside to make way for the HB glyph, until they nerfed t7.5 and messed that rotation up. The interesting thing about Frost is that it is more subject to the changes that Blizzard is making. Consider Blood/Unholy rotations, which really have not changed for quite a while. Both use 2-disease rotations that are fairly simple (Unholy more so) to learn and memorize. Since the “spamalot” rotation essentially spams a spell that Blizzard appears to dislike the spam/abuse of, something will most likely get nerfed/changed.

I think it’s probably much harder to balance Frost compared to the other two specs given that FS is an RP ability and it’s our strongest attack. You only have to look at the t8.5 set bonus, which affects only Obliterate for Frost, an ability that makes up anywhere from 10-20% of a Frost DK’s damage to realise that we are confusing Blizzard. One of my guildmates suggested that the t8 bonuses were a way to stealth nerf DKs, by way of not giving them any significant increase to DPS from the set. I can’t say I fully disagree, even though the thought leaves a bad taste in my mouth and renewed frustration with badly itemized plate.

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.

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.

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.


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