How and When to Use Necrotic Strike: A Speculative Guide

10 12 2010

I’m only 84. I know, how tragic! Can’t do heroics yet, can’t run around a city at max level being idle, oh the woe of it all. However, I did learn Necrotic Strike at 83. And I’ll admit that when I read about the ability all those months ago, I cried “another PvP ability! Wah!” Only two days after learning the skill, I am in love with it.

There are a lot of casters in every instance. Bosses cast spells. Healers cast spell. Necrotic Strike, in my non-heroic dungeon experience, works on these mobs. I haven’t had any immunes that I can remember. For a typical example of what the spell does, it turns a 2.0s cast into a 2.6s cast. That’s a big difference.

Necrotic Strike

Courtesy of Wowhead

Aside: This post is speculative, however. If NS doesn’t work on raid bosses or boss encounter adds, well, sorry. Then it’s mostly a wash in non-trash PvE. Sucks, but I won’t be entirely surprised (Dark Simulacrum will likely be fairly unhelpful in raiding).

If you’re ever assigned to interrupt something in a raid setting, you should almost always be waiting until the last possible second to cast your interrupt. Why? Well, mobs don’t melee or do anything else evil while they’re casting. So your healers get a reprieve, and people don’t take damage, etc. And NS makes that both easier and more effective. An extra half second can be the difference between not interrupting and interrupting or simply force the boss into another few milliseconds of cast time.

Fitting Necrotic Strike into your rotation

Since it costs only one Unholy Rune, it’s pretty easy for most specs. Unholy replaces an SS with an NS. Blood can easily use a Death Rune (they get a lot of them from Death Striking) to NS. Frost is a little more complicated because we typically want to use Unholy Runes strictly for PS, Obliterate, and (in AoE situations) DnD. So that doesn’t leave a lot left over.

Typically what I have been doing is either using Blood Tap, replacing Obliterates with HB/NS, or using Death Runes from Blood Strikes. If you end up with one Death Rune, the other one can be used for Pillar of Frost or something else that usually disrupts the rotation.

All of these options involves stretching our limited GCD space. So be warned: excessive NSing will often lead to an overabundance of resources: RP, runes building up, etc. Make sure you’re not NSing more than absolutely necessary. Remember that as long as a mob starts a cast while NS is active, the whole cast will be affected.

Where to use Necrotic Strike?

  • Regular instances. Mob names typically give you a hint as to whether they are spellcasters or not. Or just check if they have mana bars. If they do, it’s a safe bet NSing them will be helpful.
  • Soloing. It’s not useless when soloing. When you have to kill caster mobs, you usually have to kill more than one of them, so at least you know when you have to NS. However, often when you engage a caster mob it immediately starts casting, making NSing less than efficient. Interrupting or just straight out killing mobs while soloing is likely more effective.
  • Raiding. I’ll likely have more updates on this once I start raiding/just link to what EJ posters put up regarding using this in raids. If you’ve started raiding and have some advice, please let me know!

Rotations: What’s Okay, What’s Not?

9 11 2010

In a recent post on WoW Insider, Matthew Rossi quotes a post from Ghostcrawler about Blizzard’s past and future stances on killing/changing certain specs/rotations. I, of course, was waiting for a mention of the once-great 32/39 spec (I’ve tried in vain to find a screenshot of an old talent calc, but to no avail).

The post focused on diseaseless Blood tanking rotations in 4.0.1. Ghostcrawler said: “It doesn’t bother us unless ignoring diseases becomes the only reasonable way to play.” In the past, Blizz has killed a few specs. Notably diseaseless Blood and 32/39. 32/39 did some funny things, like focus on Howling Blast, Icy Touch, and Gargoyle instead of using Obliterate. Diseaseless Blood similarly did funny things; both specs were head and shoulders above the alternatives.

And while GC couches this in terms of making changes because some spec or rotation didn’t match up with the core values of the class, I can’t help but see it as quashing innovation in favour of keeping us tight to Blizzard’s vision for us. The example GC uses, of Rogues becoming ranged DPSers, is far more extreme than anything that’s ever happened to DKs. Yes, we’ve sometimes used abilities where clearly we weren’t intended to (for example, the phase where Unholy used Obliterate instead of SS), but we never changed the way the class played in a way that would affect more than our own DPS, as Blizzard suggests ranged Rogues would.

32/39 no more


The Great Innovator

I imagine that at some point in Cataclysm, DKs will start doing something odd again. We’ve had a lot of stuff changed in 4.0.1, and probably a lot more to come in major patches in Cataclysm. And I hope that Blizzard won’t feel the need to stomp on really cool things like the 32/39 spec. They didn’t just nerf it down to acceptable numbers, remember (it was definitely OP). They completely destroyed the spec that the rotation was built on by moving Gargoyle and Howling Blast deeper into their respective trees. Because in their minds, the spec was wrong. Similar things happened to builds that spammed Icy Touch, which I thought were also cool.

This has been something of a windy post, but my main point is that I hope we continue to innovate and do really cool, interesting things with our DPS rotations as Cataclysm matures, patch by patch. And I hope Blizzard takes a cue from this GC post and let’s us roll with our weird, non-intuitive rotations, because that’s part of what makes Death Knights interesting.

The Default UI and Its Flaws

30 10 2010

As you’ve probably noticed, in patch 4.0.1, Blizzard introduced what is essentially a default-UI version (WoW Insider gives a brief explanation of it here) of Power Auras, a mod that let you create large, visible notifications for procs, debuffs, any number of things. At first it was confusing–I didn’t know what meant what, and big things were popping up on my screen confusing me during combat. That quickly passed as I became familiar with new talents and abilities. And while the WoW Insider post I linked above says this about Bizzard’s auras:

It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s pretty. I was really impressed with these ability notifications because, frankly, there aren’t really any options. The system is just … there. Believe me, it’s a plus. Sure, there are options to turn it on or off and set the opacity, but that’s all you get. Fewer options, in this case, is better,

Blizzard auras

No countdown to be seen

I have to disagree that fewer options is better. The images are nice, yes, and it’s good that we can set the opacity, but frankly, that’s not better than Power Auras. This isn’t really a complaint, seeing as how this is the case with almost all basic UI elements that are inspired by addons–the Blizzard version is functional but not customizable. But rather a plea that raiders do not use these over Power Auras or similar notification systems.

Timing is everything

The most important feature that the Blizzard auras are missing is a timer. When Killing Machine or Rime procs (the two Frost DK auras), I need to know when they’re going to run out so I can plan my next few abilities appropriately. It’s also crucial to know what’s going on with other abilities. Again taking the example of Frost DKs, Unbreakable Armor, on a 1 minute CD, needs to be used often, and Power Auras will help while Blizzard’s won’t.

I haven’t yet had a lot of experience with the raid UI, but my guess from looking at the options is that it has about half the functionality of Grid. When I healed as a Druid, one of the most important uses of Grid was seeing where my buffs were and how long was left on them without having to click on players individually. Grid does this–admittedly with a fair amount of setup–and does it well.


Raid frame options

Limited options

Too much is too much

On the opposite side of things, some default UI stuff just does way too much. Again, this comes down to a lack of customizability, but leads to a problem of too much information busying up your screen. The default Floating Combat Text is a great example of this. Realistically, you don’t need to see any kind of damage in a raid environment, but it is nice to see when you hit a big crit or something. It’s also really important to see certain things, like immunes, parries or misses since that can either mean you’re positioned wrong or have been standing in something bad (e.g. dust clouds). You don’t need to see your DoTs ticking, your pet’s attacks, other raiders’ hits, white hits, etc. I set my combat text to display the following:

  • Any incoming damage above 3k (probably will raise this once Cataclysm raiding begins since health pools will be much larger)
  • Outgoing damage above 5k (this means I don’t usually see non-crits or white hits)
  • Parries, dodges, misses, immunes, buffs and debuffs

    Floating Combat Text

    Can't control the flow of numbers

That’s the really important stuff you need to see. Blizzard’s combat text just isn’t this flexible. And your level of addon customization should ideally reflect how seriously you raid. If you do 5-mans and that’s it, well, most of this stuff won’t matter. But in a 10-minute long boss fight, it’s extremely important to see what matters most in a clear and understandable way. Lack of information or missing something in a cloud of text is no excuse for a death. So get customizing!

Like stats, raiding UIs should be min-maxed

For raiders, the barrier to entry is already steep. If you want to seriously play your class, there’s a lot of information you need to know, and more and more comes with each patch/expansion. 4.0.1, for instance, introduced entirely new abilities, a new rune system, more glyphs to work with and an easier way to switch glyphs around, and reforging. Addons are simply another aspect of this. Many great addons do far too much or far too little out of the box, such as MikScrollingBattleText, of which I use a very pared down version. 

So when you’re going into your next raid, pay attention to exactly what you’re using the default UI for and how you could do it better with addons. No matter how much Blizzard incorporates addon-inspired ideas, these will almost never be ideal for any serious raider.

The Fringe Benefits: Beyond Death Knight Raid Buffs

25 10 2010

In the process of forming my Cataclysm raid group, there has been a lot of discussion of what classes we need to get all available buffs. As a primarily Frost specced Death Knight, I bring a few things: 20% attack speed debuff (Frost Fever), 4% physical damage taken debuff (Brittle Bones) and 10% ranged/melee attack speed (Improved Icy Talons). This isn’t much, and a lot depends on having other melee/hunters in the raid to benefit. If I’m in a 10-man with mostly casters, I’m not helping much at all.

The Fringe Benefits

Falling down

AMS will save me, right?

This buff-induced unhappiness got me thinking about what else I bring to the table as a Death Knight. These things won’t be unique to DKs, particularly, but they are still important considerations when dreaming up an ideal raid group.

  • Survival. Few DPS classes have as many ways to stay alive as Death Knights do. Paladins and Druids come to mind because they can heal themselves in a pinch, but that’s far more reactive than most DK survival tools. The abilities involved are: Death Strike, also a reactive tool; Anti-Magic Shell, now with 7-second glyphed goodness; Death Pact; and Icebound Fortitude. These survival tools benefit a lot from knowledge of the fight. To use some old-timey examples: Death Striking after Gluth’s decimates, Icebound Fortituding in preparation for XT’s tantrum… you get the point.
  • Slows. Chains of Ice, while not as awesome as it used to be, is still a potent slow. And there are fights where this matters. Mimiron’s Bomb bots, for example. I also read there was an ooze that needed slowing in the Omnitron Defense System encounter. Awesome!
  • Army of the Dead. Hey, don’t look at me like that. I swear this spell will be the lynch pin of an encounter some day.
  • Interrupts, taunts, emergency tank, Death Grip, lions, tigers, bears, etc.

My point in all this is that a class is more than the three or four buffs it brings and some DPS/tanking/healing. No matter how much our gear is standardized between classes, or however much we’re reduced to numbers and buffs, each class inevitably brings its own stuff to a raid.

Note: I also posted this as a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic idea, so if you have your own blog, check it out!

One-Handed Weapons: A Death Knight Conundrum

21 10 2010

This has bugged me ever since I started Dual Wielding as a Death Knight. It still bugs me to this day. And it bugs me even more given the recent hullaballoo over simplifying stats and making sure each class has access to properly itemized gear. Changes in this vein include: all healers getting mana regeneration from spirit, reforging and the removal of ArP in favour of mastery (ArP was worth more to classes that did lots of physical damage compared to classes like Paladins and DKs whose rotations include magical damage). So what’s bugging me? Where are the one-handed weapons itemized for DKs?

Agility One Handers

Bad itemization, bad!

Oops. This post has been edited to reflect the truth

As excellent commenter Argon pointed out, not only can Fury Warriors also use one-handed DPS weapons again, but there are also a number of properly itemized one-handers for DKs and Fury Warriors that have popped up on Wowhead. So instead of deleting this post, which I considered, I’m going to turn it into a more positive one.

Thanks, Blizzard

Since 4.0.1 hit the servers, I’ve been noticing a lot of little things that just make life easier and more fun. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give thanks.

  • General UI improvements (everything looks a lot prettier and is generally more elegant now, especially the spellbook)
  • Guild achievements and leveling
  • The amazing transformation of Haste and making it a useful, interesting stat for DKs (it’s really cool to have a stat that isn’t a straight DPS increase like most are)
  • The new glyph system

That’s all I can think of for now. There’s lots more. The only reason I didn’t include reforging in the list is because it’s just so complex and I have yet to wrap my brain around my feelings toward it.

What’s Changed for Frost in 4.0.1

17 10 2010

As I continue to hit stuff in Frost spec, and read more EJ things, I keep noticing things that changed from pre-4.0.1 that might not be so obvious. So here’s a list of the changes and a brief explanation for each one. I’ll update for any changes I notice in future/commenters make me aware of.

DnD only costs 1 Unholy

Big changes to Death and Decay

The List:

  • Use KM procs on Obliterate rather than Frost Strike. With the new patch and talents, OB hits harder than FS, so all Killing Machine procs should be used for OB. Do not, however, wait for OB runes to come back up if you can FS. Delaying attacks is almost never a good idea given how close to GCD-capped the rotation is.
  • Frost Fever no longer HAS to be up for us to do any semblance of damage. Yes, diseases are still great, but the talents that buffed our damage by a lot when FF was up are no longer, so it’s safe to DPS down low-health adds without applying diseases. If you’re using Glyph of HB, however, you’re still going to be applying FF as you run towards the adds anyways.
  • Don’t pestilence for low numbers of adds, just HB+tab cast Plague Strike. Pestilence lowers disease damage by 50%, and so now it actually is more profitable to cast PS, tab, and cast again. HB glyph takes care of FF, and when casting lots of HB vs. OB you get excess unholy runes, so use them on PS.
  • Howling Blast is no longer affected by Killing Machine. This is a bonus for single target damage but a big loss for AoE damage; no longer can you crit on 10 targets at once with one HB. Frown.
  • Death and Decay costs one Unholy Rune! Holy crap. This is what happens when you don’t pay attention to changes for a while, then log in and have a number of WTF moments at the things that changed. Obviously, this makes it a lot easier to fit into AoE rotations, and so should almost always be used. Especially true because HB-AoE rotations leave excess Unholy Runes, as mentioned earlier.
  • AMS no longer energizes us with RP when absorbing damage. It only does so if you have the talent in deep Unholy. This sucks, but really, we have few excess GCDs so it’s not a big thing.
  • Runic Empowerment means you have to stay on your toes. This is a change for all specs, but it means that your rotation is even more priority-based than it was in previous patches. Having random runes popping up unexpectedly (and with no internal cooldown) is both a frustrating and incredibly rewarding experience. It really makes DPSing more interesting than it was previously, and also makes the ability to see runes clearly (requiring a good addon, Magic Runes being my favourite) and react quickly a lot more important than pre-4.0.1.

What else have you noticed that’s changed for Frost, or DKs in general?

Patch 4.0 Frost DW Talents

12 10 2010

Wondering how to spec in 4.0? Confused? Me too. This post is my attempt at creating a Frost DW spec that will do two things: get me to Cataclysm and help me get used to the new mechanisms and procs of DW Frost. Here’s the spec:

4.0 Frost DW talent specBrrrr

Some explanations:

Icy Reach vs. RPM: RPM lost a lot of its usefulness due to changes to other abilities, such as AMS not energizing runic power and Druids’ revitalize not giving runic power either. Icy Reach therefore provides more benefit in combat situations, since you should avoid capping your RP and a higher cap, if you are good at using up RP as it is generated, does not help you.

Endless Winter vs. On a Pale Horse: I lean towards EW because in the limited situations that both talents do anything, EW will help more. It frees you up to use your usual rotation and not lead to accidental wipes because you used up RP when you shouldn’t have. On a Pale Horse, on the other hand, is a more passive talent that, when it works, will help marginally, but will really not affect your gameplay very much. When you’re slowed, you’re still going to be slowed. Although both are narrow, I think EW has a more important effect when it is useful, since when interrupts are part of an encounter, they are often a significant part (see: Vezax, Jaraxxus, etc).

That’s all, folks?

The rest of the Frost talents for DW are pretty much must-haves, especially since many of them are new and the most important thing in the last months of WotLK is not to get uber DPS but to become used to how the new talents will work in tandem with the new rune regeneration system, which I’ll hopefully be able to talk about once the servers come back up.


Prime glyphs: Two are fairly obvious, here being: Obliterate and Frost Strike, stalwarts of Frost glyphing. The only competition is between HB and Icy Touch. After some experimenting with both, I think I’ve come out in favour of HB, mostly due to being given the nod by EJ and some testing here and there. HB just hits harder. And means that you can do quicker, better AoE damage due to not having to rely on Icy Touch/Pestilence, which suffers from the Pestilence nerf.

Major glyphs involve a bit more choice, but mine are as follows: Pestilence, AMS, Hungering Cold (or Blood Boil). Frost gets pretty mediocre returns from these glyphs, but there isn’t a lot of choice because Pillar of Frost is likely more of a hindrance than a help for PvE. Blood Boil and Hungering Cold are exchangeable depending on how useful HC turns out to be in raids (I’ve been out of the game for a while, also never had it in PvE specs before). AMS will most certainly be helpful for obvious reasons, fire bad, etc. Pestilence range increase is still good, and the rest just don’t do anything.

Minor glyphs: These also don’t do much, but if you’re curious I’ll be taking Path of Frost, Blood Tap and Horn of Winter.

What about you? Have any other choices in mind? Have you gotten on the servers yet?