The Times Will Be A Changing (In the Next Major Content Patch)

22 05 2009

Some news about patch 3.2 hit the interwebs today, with the most important (to me, anyways) tidbit being a nerf to Jewelcrafting:

In the next major content patch we will be removing the prismatic quality of the jewelcrafter-only Dragon’s Eye gems. Like other gems, they will have to match the socket color to receive a socket bonus. When this change occurs, players with qualifying jewelcrafting skill will be provided a yet to be determined amount of Dalaran Jewelecrafter Tokens as compensation. (Source)

Sorry Jewelcrafters. Here are some tokens, though.

Sorry Jewelcrafters. Here are some tokens, though.

This nerf is fair. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Currently, JC is head and shoulders above other professions for a couple reasons. First, you get essentially free socket bonuses as well as being able to choose what stat you want to improve. For a Death Knight, this is especially beneficial because the +33 strength from using 3 Bold Dragon’s Eyes is much better than the extra AP you would otherwise get from Enchanting or Inscription. You also get more benefit than Blacksmithing because it only gives two gem slots, which will be 32 strength and no easy socket bonuses. Basically, all of these advantages boil down to the fact that Blizzard is justified in nerfing it.

What interests me is that they will be handing out Dalaran Jewelcrafter Tokens “as compensation.” I don’t know if this has ever been done before, but I feel like it’s a mistake to do so. It makes it seem like they feel the nerf is unwarranted – Engineers aren’t getting anything for losing Nitro Boosts in arenas, for example.

Switching professions?

I won’t be dropping Jewelcrafting. It’s still very good, and hopefully they will buff Dragon’s Eyes to compensate for the existance of epic gems in the next patch. (If they don’t, JC will have lost pretty much all its usefulness.) Jewelcrafting will remain a very good way to make money, as well as giving you access to cutting and prospecting your own gems/ore.


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.

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.