The Vague and the Theorycrafted

5 07 2009

Since the new Frost-DW talent (Threat of Thassarian) was announced a few weeks ago, people at Elitist Jerks have been furiously hitting dummies and calculators (see this thread) to figure out exactly what the mechanics of the new talent are. I have the utmost respect for these people, but I can’t help feeling like the job of finding these things out is completely avoidable. Since Ghostcrawler revealed the details of how Armor Penetration, the game’s most complex stat, works, why not do this for other stats, mechanics or talents?

1+1= window?

1+1= window?

The main purpose of the EJ thread I linked earlier in this post is to determine what affects and what does not affect the damage of various DW abilities, such as Frost Strike and white damage. One example of this is whether sigils like Sigil of the Vengeful Heart and Sigil of Awareness apply their bonuses equally to main-hand and off-hand strike damage or with different numbers for each  weapon. There are numerous other mechanics being tested, some answered, some not. Once we know the mechanics and the math, we can then begin to delve into the actual game and mess with talent specs, gear and stat optimization and rotations.

So my question is this: does Blizzard want us (or at least those skilled in math) to have to jump the mechanics/numbers hurdle in order to play the game the best we possibly can? For a while now, EJ has provided readers and posters with math behind what talents/stats/gear are good and which are bad, and that’s not going away. But I fail to see the use in leaving these mechanics (such as those involved in Threat of Thassarian) vague, thus making people do exhaustive research on questions that Blizzard already no doubt has the answers to. If they gave us the math, we could get to the game faster and more easily.


Unorthodox Glyphing

28 05 2009

I wanted to title this post “Rogue Glyphing” because unorthodox is kind of a lame word, but then people would think I was writing about Rogues. And we can’t have that.

Rogues begone!

Rogues begone!

Anyways, one poster (Erekose) over on Elitist Jerks has been conducting a one-man crusade in favour of replacing the Obliterate glyph with the Howling Blast glyph. It sounds insane at first, but when you look at the reasoning behind it as well as the rotations currently producing the best results for Frost, it starts to make more sense.

Reason #1: Obliterate is <10% of total damage

When using the ITx6 rotation (which goes something like this IT – BS – OB – OB – FS – BT – IT – FS – OB – FS / IT x6 [weaving Frost Strikes as always to maximize use of KM and avoid capping RP]), Obliterate ends up around 7-8% of total damage. If you’re confused (I’m still learning how to effectively use this rotation), watch this extremely helpful informational video (also by Erekose). A side note: the video puts forth the idea that having your runes refresh in pairs separated by 3-5 seconds leads to a smoother rotation. Erekose posted his WMO from a Mimiron fight, which you can see here (he also made it into the WMO Scoreboard, which lists top parses for each encounter), and my numbers on a recent Mimiron wipe correspond to Erekose’s. So the Obliterate glyph works out to being 20% of ~7%, which is somewhere around 1.5% damage. Not a big increase for a major glyph slot.

Reason #2: Utility

Almost every fight in Ulduar has some kind of AoE component, with the exceptions of Hodir, Ignis, Vezax and the Assembly of Iron. 9/14 is pretty good. On fights like Mimiron, you will be able to keep Frost Fever up on every part of Voltron in phase 4 without casting Pestilence, or worrying about when your diseases are going to fall off secondary targets. Same goes for Kologarn, Freya’s adds, Auriaya’s adds, Razorscale’s adds, etc. The HB glyph also allows you to apply Frost Fever to groups of mobs at a distance. This is especially helpful when it is difficult to get in melee range of an add, especially ones who die quickly, to cast Pestilence.

In sum, you gain:

  • A more efficient AoE rotation
  • Ability to apply diseases from range
  • More Blood Boils (don’t have to use a Blood Rune on Pestilence with the glyph)

And you lose:

  • Approximately 1.5% DPS, assuming this loss isn’t made up for in AoE situations (hard to gauge)

Deciding to use the HB glyph instead of OB is largely a matter of playstyle preference. If you are okay with using Pestilence a lot and having a slightly more complex AoE rotation, stick with Obliterate. If you liked the HB rotation in Blood Presence, you may want to give this new setup a try. Also, the existence and success of this rotation and glyph choice is another nail in the coffin of 4-piece t7 as well as Armor Penetration (this rotation does very very little physical damage, ~24% in Erekose’s parse). Avoid both if possible (though the tier 8.5 pieces are reasonably well itemized, except for the helm, regardless of crappy set bonus).

A caveat:

ITx6 rotations (and even the other Unholy Presence rotation I posted earlier, IT – PS – OB – BS – BS / OB – IT – PS – IT – IT, are far better when you have the Sigil of the Vengeful Heart. If you don’t, but want to run the ITx6 for some other reason (it still puts out competitive DPS), use the Sigil of the Frozen Conscience over Awareness.

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!