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.

Rolling Diseases: How to Effectively Spread the Plague

18 10 2009

Note: this post is primarily about Blood DPS (though it is also applicable to Frost, which often uses Glyph of Disease).

Rolling diseases is the term used for casting diseases while you have temporary buffs (such as Greatness, Fallen Crusader, Unholy Might, Unholy Force, etc.) that increase your Str/AP and then refreshing those buffed diseases with Glyph of Disease/Pestilence. The way Pestilence works with GoD is in the wording: “Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.” Compare this to Glyph of Howling Blast: “Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.” The HB glyph causes HB to apply Frost Fever while GoD allows Pestilence to refresh the diseases already applied to your current target.

Keep in mind that the decision to use Glyph of Disease (over Glyph of Dark Death) depends on how many on use/chance on hit AP/Str procs you have. The major ones you can get are: Darkmoon Card: Greatness, 2p t9, Sigil of Virulence, that sort of thing. The more you have, the better Glyph of Disease will work for you.


But Shop, how can I get all my procs to align?

The short answer is that you can’t. The long answer is that there are a few tricks that can help you set up your procs to align.

1) At the start of your fight, use HS-HS-DS (with the option of BT to get a 3rd HS if Unholy Might doesn’t proc) to get as many procs going as possible, then apply diseases.

2) Download and configure Procodile, an addon that can monitor internal cooldowns (ICD) of buffs (as well as the buffs themselves, but I use other addons to cover that). When you have it set up to track all the ICDs of your buffs, if you don’t get all your buffs up at the start of a fight, you can see in advance if and when multiple proc cooldowns will line up again. Considering how important this can be for your DPS, Procodile is a worthwhile investment.

How does Pestilence fit into your rotation?

If you are spell hit capped, you can wait until the last possible second to refresh your diseases. If you’re not, it’s best to leave yourself at least one GCD before your diseases fall off when you refresh. This way if your Pestilence misses you don’t lose your buffed diseases. Aside from this, fit Pestilence in wherever necessary, and where possible refresh disease right before you use DRW so you don’t waste a GCD on a Pestilence while DRW is up.

The ideal rotation for Blood with GoD is to use the traditional 20 second rotation (IT-PS-DS-HS-HS-DC // DS-HS-HS-HS-HS-DC-DC) and simply cast Pestilence before the 21-second diseases run out. This is, however, in an ideal situation and you should be thinking ahead about what might happen to cause you to be away from the boss. One example is Icehowl: you want buffed diseases to stay up as long as possible but are frequently knocked away from the boss.

Some final tips:

  • First priority in your rotation is keeping buffed diseases going; if they fall off it’s not always easy to get them going again
  • Know when you will be away from the boss so you can refresh in advance
  • Cast Pestilence as little as you can while still keeping diseases up (i.e. don’t refresh halfway through disease timers without a good reason to)

Glyph of Disease: Revolutions

31 08 2009

This post may or may not be the complete opposite of my earlier post that generated some rather passionate comments.



Since then, things have changed a bit, especially for Frost. The main reason is the discovery that, much like how Lifebloom worked in previous eras, you can pop trinkets and time with procs to get the most AP, apply new diseases, and refresh the boosted disease ad nauseam (unless the fight is such that you can’t help your diseases falling off).

For Frost DW (if you don’ t have to provide the haste buff), you also aren’t losing much by ditching the IT glyph, which was the major disadvantage of using Glyph of Disease in previous patches. Frost DW runs in Blood Presence, and with the IT glyph frequently has an abundance of unusable procs and RP. So by using GoD, you lose the functionality of overflowing RP (for IBF and AMS) and gain significantly better disease damage and more space in your rotation.

Using the glyph comes with a caveat, however. Many fights simply don’t allow it to be used effectively, both in Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader. Basically, the glyph won’t help you if you have to keep applying diseases the standard way with Icy Touch and Plague Strike. Some examples of bad fights for the GoD are Northrend Beasts, Twin Valkyries, Faction Champions, Yogg.. the list goes on.

If you have the liberty of having two DPS specs, having one DW Frost with GoD can be very beneficial especially for sit-and-DPS fights like Vezax. Right now my secondary DPS spec is DW Frost with Endless Winter for free interrupts that I use for Faction Champions and other interrupt fights. If you’re not an off-spec tank, don’t be afraid to use one general one and another very specialized one for certain situations. My primary spec is Blood, which is good at basically everything but interrupting, since losing 20 RP at crucial moments in your rotation is frustrating (due to the Death Strike glyph and the large amount of RP that DRW uses up).

P.S. There’s a new, updated thread for Unholy over at EJ which I encourage you to check out if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

ITx6 Meets DW

17 08 2009

I want to preface this post by saying that I haven’t been able to try ITx6 in a raid as of 3.2 (yet) and so don’t have any solid numbers. That said, Erekose (the author of the ITx6 explanation video I’ve posted about before) has suggested it is once again viable. Here’s his post on EJ for your viewing pleasure. So if I have no numbers, what’s this post about? Well, DPS specs are about 90% numbers and 10% other random crap that goes on in the background.

For reference, here are the two specs I’m going to be talking about (and their corresponding rotations):

ITx6: Spec (take points out of Dark Conviction and into Virulence if you need extra hit that you don’t have on your gear)

Rotation and an explanation of how the spec works can be found here.

DW Frost (Obliterate-centric): Spec (Choose between BCB/Subversion)

Explanation of the spec and how it works here.

Let’s start with the ITx6 spec and its pros and cons.


  • Not GCD-locked
  • Flexible rotation (with so many Death Runes, it’s easy to fit in things like Pestilence and Unbreakable Armor as necessary)
  • 15% movement speed from UP (frees up your boot enchant plus the move speed is helpful in general)
  • More procs from the 15% melee haste in UP
  • Single-disease rotation is simpler to manage and allows you to start DPSing new targets quicker
  • Able to make good use of any and all procs
  • Can take advantage of AMS soaking rather than simply getting capped)
  • Parries/dodges/misses don’t screw up the rotation


  • Lower disease damage (single-disease, no BP modifier)
  • Can’t take advantage of Glyph of Disease (one-disease rotation makes it moot)
  • Lower AoE damage
  • Requires spell hit to function properly (way more ITs in the rotation compared to the Obliterate-centric rotation)
  • Without a source of magical damage to AMS soak from can have downtime in the rotation
  • Obliterate glyph is much less effective than the other Frost rotation since ITx6 uses so few)
  • Disease clipping (casting IT before FF falls off)
  • Doesn’t benefit well from ArPen (~45+% damage is from Frost Strike)
  • Only really wants Str/AP/hit on gear, all other stats are largely wasted

And now the Obliterate-centric rotation:


  • Higher disease damage (no clipping)
  • Higher Obliterate damage (takes full advantage of the glyph)
  • Higher AoE damage
  • Can use Glyph of Disease if not providing the 20% haste buff
  • No downtime in the rotation
  • Scales well with ArPen (prevalent on a lot of gear)


  • Extremely GCD-locked
  • Can’t effectively make use of all Rime/KM procs without delaying the rotation and therefore rune refreshes
  • Difficult to fit UA into the rotation (even with macros, requires extremely difficult and precise timing, making it unavailable at certain points in the rotation, such as when Frost Runes are available)
  • Extra RP is essentially wasted (from AMS soaking or other sources, such as a Druid’s Revitalize talent)
  • No movement speed buff (stuck with the Tuskarr’s boot enchant)
  • Capped expertise required since parries/anything that pushes the rotation back will have a negative effect on DPS

All this said, I’m going to test out ITx6 and post a parse of that compared to a parse of previous boss fights done with the DW Frost spec. If you’ve tried ITx6 post-3.2 or have pros/cons to add please e-mail me or post in the comments. All the utility in the world means nothing if one spec dominates in DPS.

Edit: Although I don’t have any parses because the person who usually records them wasn’t on for most of the raid, I found that I was doing competetive DPS – slight variations up or down most likely due to rustiness with the spec.

Time to respec.

Time to respec.

Dual Wielding, Post-3.2

6 08 2009

I’ve had a chance to test out DW Frost in some raids, so I thought I’d share some observations.

Problem #1: Blood Presence leads to an extremely tight rotation with barely any room to Frost Strike enough to avoid capping RP

Solution #1. Switch out the IT glyph for something else

If I’m not using the extra RP, the glyph doesn’t do anything worthwhile. Your best option for a replacement is Glyph of Blood Strike, but you need to have either a Frostfire Mage or a Druid with Infected Wounds (unlike Torment the Weak, the Mage talent, the BS glyph requires a movement slowing effect in order to activate). Failing this, you can go with Glyph of the Ghoul or Glyph of Plague Strike, as I mentioned in my previous DW post.

Solution #2. Try an Unholy Presence rotation

Like the previous UP rotation (ITx6) this works best in heavy movement fights (more speed) and fights with something to AMS extra RP out of. One example is Ignis’ Flame Jets – a predictable source of absorbable damage. I tested it out on a dummy and it’s actually quite easy to do, especially if you’re familiar with the ITx6 rotation (which was much more complex).

There are a few spare GCDs here and there (the rotation ran very tight in BP but is far looser than ITx6 in UP) that you should always attempt to fill with either Raise Ghoul or Horn of Winter. Note that while the IT glyph is largely wasted on a BP rotation, it’s pretty much mandatory for UP. One fringe benefit to UP is that you are able to make more efficient use of Rime and Killing Machine procs since you always have spare GCDs to put them in as well as to weave Frost Strikes on KM procs (though HB should always be prioritized if you have Rime + KM).

Solution #3: Be more flexible

These days, lots of encounters have you running around like a chicken with a giant yeti chasing after it. Since this rotation frequently gets lots of RP (especially in situations where Resto Druids have Revitalize or where you are able to get RP from AMS) and sometimes reaches dangerously close to the cap, you should use time outside of melee range to your advantage. If you’re running around, make sure you’re firing off Rime-procced HBs (and even non-Rime HBs if you know you won’t be in range for a while) as well as Death Coils. This strategy requires forethought, however.

For example, don’t use up all your RP on DCs if you’re going to be in melee range soon. On the other hand, if you know you’re going to be able to AMS your RP to cap, then you should definitely toss out some DCs to avoid getting back into melee range with 130 RP you can’t use.

Solution #3: Not every Rime proc means more DPS, even though it does damage

If you’re running in BP, you should really only be using Rime procs if they coincide with KM procs. The reasoning is because we are so GCD limited we already have trouble using up RP on Frost Strike, so adding in additional GCDs will cause more problems than the ~5k damage a Rime proc provides. Keep in mind that while you are saving Rime for KM procs, you should not be saving KM procs for Rime. If you’ve got time to dump RP into FS, do it – don’t wait. This spec requires using every GCD available immediately.

Problem #2: Unbreakable Armor is very difficult to successfully fit into a rotation

Solution #1: Don’t spec into it

The downside to this option is that you lose the only cooldown you have, so all you get is sustained damage and no controllable burst. This is bad for fights that require such controlled burst (XT, Yogg) but not a huge hit for fights that don’t (Ignis). You also get a free point, likely put into either Subversion if you need threat reduction or filling out BCB.

Solution #2: Macros

I’ve started using 2 macros to try and fit UA into my rotation, and even still I’m getting messed up stuff with having one Blood and one Death Rune up, which is bad. The first macro goes like this:

/cast blood tap

/cast unbreakable armor

Ideally you do this when your Frost Runes aren’t up so you avoid using a Frost Rune to cast UA. You should also do this when your other Blood Rune is down. Now, to avoid getting messed up when you lose the Blood Tap buff, you need a second macro.

/cancelaura Blood Tap

Since what BT effectively does is give you a buff that turns one of your Blood Runes into Death Runes for the duration (and when it falls off, the affected rune always goes back to being a Blood Rune, whether you just Blood Striked or Obliterated with it), leaving the buff active inevitably screws up your rotation down the road. You’ll find yourself with one Blood and one Death Rune, somehow or another. This situation should be avoided at all cost.

I feel like I should have 3 problems to talk about but unfortunately I can’t come up with anything else right now. If you have any questions about the spec or the rotation, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or by e-mail.

Dual Wielding Come 3.2

2 08 2009

Dual wielding is fun. It comes with a few inherent benefits: less competition for weapons, especially 1-handed swords (which you’ll only fight rogues for) and overall better physical DPS scaling. The downside, apparently, has been a revamp of the way the Frost tree works. From the fall of 32/39 spec to what’s live at the moment, for any spec going deep into Frost (i.e. not the 10/61 Unholy spec or the 17/54 Unholy DW spec), Frost Strike has been the highest source of damage in any given encounter. This is especially true with regards to the ITx6 Machinegun rotation, which sacrifices use of Obliterates in favour of Icy Touches (for more RP and therefore more Frost Strikes).

But in 3.2, according to the testing going on in the EJ DW thread, Obliterate has become the strongest ability in Frost’s arsenal. This is a little bit disappointing, for a couple of reasons. First, it makes Frost play more like Unholy in that you’re focusing your rotation on maximizing a U/F rune ability rather than on an RP ability. This has led to a new priority system that looks something like this (with a spec that looks like this), from highest to lowest priority:

  1. FF
  2. BP
  3. HB (if Rime + KM)
  4. OB
  5. BS
  6. FS

There’s also some talk of the Glyph of Disease making a comeback for DW (since it allows for an extra Obliterate/GCD for Howling Blast), but I’m not sure how well this will hold up in practice, given the target-swapping nature of many boss encounters these days. Disregarding that, though, the Disease glyph does not re-apply Improved Icy Touch, so if you’re the one bringing the 20% haste buff, you’ll need to be using IT anyways, making it a the glyph a waste. So what glyph choices are there for this spec, then?

The two obvious choices are Obliterate and Frost Strike, two of the spec’s main strikes. Things aren’t as clear cut for the third slot. The options are:

  1. Glyph of Icy Touch (more RP for Frost Strikes, with the downside that there are very little extra GCDs in this rotation, meaning you might not be able to use all the extra RP anyways)
  2. Glyph of Plague Strike (minor damage boost)
  3. Glyph of the Ghoul (requires speccing into Night of the Dead to be worth it, probably inferior to PS)
  4. Glyph of Howling Blast (since this rotation uses both diseases, the utility of being apply to skip Pestilence in AoE rotations is lost)

My initial instinct (if the Glyph of Disease becomes impractical/you have to buff the raid with IIT) is to go with Icy Touch, since having extra RP around can be helpful for interrupting, popping AMS/IBF and using Death Coils when you’re forced out of range of the boss. None of the other glyphs provide significant DPS boosts, so in this situation I’ll lean towards utility (just as currently I run with the Howling Blast glyph over the Obliterate one in my ITx6 spec).

I’ll come back to this topic as I learn more/when 3.2 hits. On a side note, there’s also the worry that DW will overtake the current top DPS spec (2h Blood) and end up being nerfed so that it doesn’t pull a 32/39 and blow every other spec/rotation out of the water.

Update Aug. 4/09: As far as Runeforges go, you should be using FC/FC unless you’re up against a fight that’s single-target enough to allow you to hit the boss without intervals longer than 20 seconds (the length of a Razorice stack), in which case you should use Razorice. You’ll also want two slow weapons for Frost DWing.

Goodbye, loyal sword?

Goodbye, loyal sword?

Bloody Blood Blooding

7 07 2009

For the first time in a while, I tried out a Blood spec. My gear isn’t optimal for it – I only have about 188 ArPen and with Grim Toll I’m over the hit cap by a bit – but my DPS was pretty solid, definitely competitive with my usual Frost spec. For one, it was a lot more dynamic than I thought Blood was.

Another thing I noticed was how much I really wanted the changes they’re making to both Death Rune mechanics and DRW. Unlike the ITx6, I can’t spam rune abilities to make sure my rune pairs don’t get messed up. So when I end up with 4 Death Runes refreshing quickly, I’m going to get my Unholy runes refreshing in a pair and my Frost runes doing the same. Solving this problem will make the Blood rotation much, much simpler. The strange mechanics of DRW and Gargoyle in Unholy are also a stumbling block for both specs, and I’m glad Blizzard is simplifying them.

I actually wanted ArPen

One of the best things about being Blood, even just for a night, was actually appreciating the ArPen on my gear. So I really hope Blizzard can fix ArPen for Unholy and Blood.


The worst part about doing well as Blood was the lack of nerfs incoming for the spec. If I can do on-par DPS compared to my Frost spec, why is Frost Strike getting a 10% nerf in damage, which will mean at least a 5% decrease in my overall damage as Frost (because FS is usually ~50% of damage on a given fight). Why is Scourge Strike getting a big nerf, when Blood does equal damage as it in PvE?

With these changes, and the buffs to disease damage, as well as the simplification of some mechanics, it seems like Blood might be head and shoulders above the other specs once 3.2 hits. I hope my guild gets an Enhancement Shaman soon so that I can test it out more in 25-mans.

N.B. If you want to know anything about Blood DPS, read this thread.