Death Knight: [Obscure and Irrelevant]Q & A[That We Already Knew]

25 06 2009

Welcome, welcome! As you may have been aware of, Blizzard has been releasing class Q&As, and most recently the Death Knight version appeared. If you haven’t seen the thread yet, take a look, then come back and read why I think it was a big waste of time/anticlimax. I’m going to go question by question, starting with #1. (I’ll re-post the question and summarize the answer.)

Note: Square brackets are my snarky comments.

Q: Where do death knights fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?

A: Death Knights have a unique resource mechanic [I hadn’t noticed this. Thanks for informing me, Ghostcrawler!] Nerfing AoE damage [Unholy Blight] and defensive cooldowns [he failed to mention nerfing our armor and HP this time I guess?]

Okay, so question #1 is broad and essentially reiterates what we’ve already gleaned from the patch notes, which is a reoccurring theme in this Q&A. Let’s move on and hope there are more meaty questions farther in.

Q: What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?

A: Unique resource mechanic. [Where have we heard that before?] Death Knights don’t have a dedicated tree for tanking, PvP, etc. [Only DW, amirite?]

GC’s answer to this question basically told us what we already knew about the class from release. Things are not looking good.

Q: How do we feel about the current viability of dual-wielding? Are there plans to improve it or have it fit a specific role for the class?

A: Repeat of things already in the 3.2 patch notes. Blah blah Frost is the new DW. We don’t really care about 2h Frost anymore (nerfing it is not a “goal” but neither is keeping it alive a priority). Blood and Unholy DW specs apparently stopped working all of a sudden [there have been reports of its success in Ulduar from the EJ forum] because Frost got a DW talent.

So GC doesn’t care about 2h Frost. What was that about no significant changes in patch notes anymore? Not having to completely rethink the way I play every patch? Hm.

Q: Do we have plans for any changes or improvements to Dancing Rune Weapon?

A: Read the patch notes, guys. [Maybe they should have released this before the patch notes, and then I would have cared.]

Nothing to say about this. It’s a question we already knew the answer to.

Q: What are our current thoughts on the status of death knight tanks and do we have plans for further changes?

A: DK tanks are overpowered [I thought warriors were tanking everything, GC?] and are really the only good choice for tanking hard modes. Nerfs incoming that we also already knew about.

See commentary above. 3.2 patch notes > Q&A (far less expectation of actual helpful information).

Q: Are we satisfied with stats such as Armor Penetration, Haste, and Hit having very different values depending on which talent spec a death knight is using?

A: No different tier sets for different specs. Making ArPen work for more than just Blood.

In what possible way could this be accomplished? Armor mitigates physical damage, and ArPen removes some of this mitigation, thereby increasing physical damage dealt. This is great for Blood, which does lots of physical damage, but for Frost and Unholy, where 50-60% of total damage is allocated to either Frost or Shadow damage, this stat is basically a joke. Unless they plan to somehow make it affect magic damage for Frost Strike and Scourge Strike (which are melee abilities) or make them physical damage abilities (boring), I’m at a loss. This needs to be addressed because of how prevalent ArPen as a stat is and how undesirable it makes many pieces of gear (read: all Ulduar plate DPS bracers except the one from Mimiron-25 hard mode).

Q: Would it be possible to save runeforge enchants to primary and secondary talent specializations or add rune forges to more convenience places than Acherus?

A: Runeforges are already good, no changes incoming.

Who cares? Most people have two weapons, and even if you don’t you’ll only need to change specs to go into an instance (most of the time) at which point other members of your group can just summon you back from Acherus. This leads to another problem with the Q&A: issues that are so unimportant I’ve never heard anyone QQ about them seriously.

Q: Are there plans to change or improve the Frigid Deadplate talent?

A: No plans.

WTF? Who was complaining about Frigid Dreadplate? No Frost tank ever avoids this talent or complains that it’s worse than Anticipation (dodge > miss), which was apparently a concern for GC.

Q: Is there any plan to improve Will of the Necropolis?

A: No plans.

See above.

Q: Is this a bug or something in particular we are investigating? (Referring to how sometimes the combat log records Mind Freeze as having interrupted a spell and yet the spell goes off regardless.)

A: Server-client disagreement, server wins.

I think we knew this about WoW already. Sometimes you lag behind the server.

Q: Do we have plans to change any of the death knight’s self-healing abilities?

A: No plans.

Apparently people think we can survive too long without a healer. Lots of classes can survive without a healer, we just do it differently. Rogues Vanish, Mages Blink, Paladins Bubble, Warlocks have an escape mechanism… etc. Since DKs don’t really have an effective way of running away, we get the ability to heal ourselves. Seems fair, right?

Q: Would you consider adding a Mortal Strike-like ability to death knights in the future?

A: Probably not, no.

I wasn’t ever expecting a Mortal Strike effect, and I doubt any other DK was either.

Q: Will Chains of Ice ever be subject to diminishing returns?

A: No[t yet].

It’s a snare that we can cast twice every 10 seconds, or four times every 10 with Death Runes. If we do that, our damage is completely gimped since we’d only be left with the runes to cast Plague Strike.

Q: Will ghouls ever get their voices back?

A: Long-term plan to bring them back.

I don’t care. I’ve got other issues! The overriding problems with this Q&A:

  1. Questions often already answered by 3.2 patch notes
  2. Questions and answers were uninteresting/uninformative
  3. Questions didn’t address any of the important issues in any detail (ArPen, itemization, tanking, 2h Frost…)

I’m left wondering what the point of the Q&A series really is. My initial reaction upon reading the DK version was that it could act as sort of a primer to new DKs, but that went out the window with the whole “ghoul voice” thing among other questions clearly not directed at new Death Knights. Calling it a class Q&A raises the expectation that it will answer important and useful questions about the class, rather than simply provide a bunch of repetitive crap and some stuff no dedicated DK really cares about. Better luck next time.


The 22 RP Blues, or How I Came to Love Horn of Winter

17 06 2009

As a DK, I often find myself short of one resource or the other. Either I have too many runes and RP and not enough time, or empty space in my rotation because I screwed up my timing on AMS or am somehow cooldown-less. One ability steps in to save the day: Horn of Winter. If you’ve used Blood Tap, Empower Rune Weapon, and are otherwise empty on runes, Horn of Winter is the only thing left to generate RP. The perks of the spell (even if a Shaman is covering the buff): it’s free and it generates 10 RP. This means that for you Frost DKs playing with the same rotation as me (ITx6 machinegun), you’re going to have a lot of GCDs to fill and sometimes not enough RP. Next time you don’t have ANY runes or RP available to use abilities that do damage, use Horn of Winter.

It took me a little while to get used to turning what was once a once-every-3-minute spell into a use-on-CD ability. It will help you squeeze in extra Frost Strikes and Death Coils, and you’ll never again forget about it and lose the buff if you’re the one providing it to the raid. So just as AMS is used as an offensive cooldown for Frost (purposely activating it and taking spell damage, like walking through fire or other kinds of bad), Horn of Winter can be used in a similar manner. Give it a shot.

Why I Love Melee

17 06 2009
Cooler than a staff any day.

Cooler than a staff any day.

Recently, I’ve been playing on my Mage alt, who is Frostfire specced for raiding (Frost for PvP). It has driven home why I play a Death Knight DPS rather than a Mage or any other caster class as my main. Mages are great fun in PvP – they get to use a giant arsenal of snares, slows, stuns and various other things to deal with an opponent. Unfortunately, in PvE you end up spamming Frostfire Bolt/Arcane Blast/Fireball/Frostbolt and waiting on procs.

As a DK, I’m pressing a button every second (due to playing in Unholy Presence). This means in a 5 minute fight, I’ll push ~300 buttons, give or take a few due to running around/no runes or RP to use/using abilities without a cooldown. I also have to watch procs (Killing Machine) and use cooldowns (Unbreakable Armor), but for the most part I’m spamming abilities in no defined order (a mix of Obliterate, Icy Touch, Howling Blast and Frost Strike).

In addition to the difference in mechanics, playing melee has a distinctly different feel to it, as well as playing very differently in certain fights. In Ulduar, there are a good deal of melee-friendly fights: Ignis, Vezax, Mimiron (phases 2 and 4), XT… etc. These are fights where ranged are often forced to run around, unable to cast, waving their hands around like chickens with their heads cut off (okay, maybe not so much that last thing) while melee stay in and hit the boss a lot.

As a Mage, I feel a little bit helpless when I’m running around. I can try to time my running with being able to re-cast Living Bomb and using up a Hot Streak proc, but since I often don’t control when I have to move, I’m stuck with Fire Blast. As a DK, I can  Icy Touch, Howling Blast and Death Coil if I’m forced out of melee range. Often, running out of stuff as a melee class doesn’t mean running out of melee range.Take Hodir, for example. Snow Drifts often drop close to the boss, which means you can be safe from Flash Freeze and still be hitting the boss at the same time.

The biggest difference between melee and ranged playstyles is the cast time, especially for channeled spells. Having played a Mage, I now understand why they seem to die so inexplicably often. If you’re .2s away from casting a Frostfire Bolt, you don’t want to move. You want to sit there and finish casting, damnit. DKs can pretty much GTFO whenever they please. Yeah, your diseases might fall off, but resetting your rotation isn’t a big problem (especially for the Frost rotation that I use, which casts plenty of Icy Touches anyways).

A thank you to all those who made being a melee possible:


Bosses’ fat, squishy asses

Giant swords

My guild for recruiting a DPS DK

What? My Feet Are On Fire?

10 06 2009

Sometimes, you’re in the zone, DPSing away, firing off each rune as it refreshes, critting left and right, and then WHAM you die from exploding plants/exploding hot iron golems/void zones/fire/ice/green goop/lightning. This is never fun. Lissanna over at Restokin has written up a great post about how healers can avoid “tunnel vision” (focusing on one element of a fight, such as DPS, and ignoring all other dangerous things/misc. assignments), and suggested it as a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic. Interestingly enough, Death Knights can suffer a similar fate to healers, namely becoming focused solely on bars (rune refresh bars rather than the raid’s health bars).

Most DKs I know use some kind of rune mod, whether it be MagicRunes (my mod of choice) or another one. As a result, we can get trapped in looking at the rune timers rather than what’s lighting your feet on fire.


As you can see in the screenshot of my UI, I try to put all the pertinent information near where my character hangs out on the screen. My rune display is also fairly transparent, so it doesn’t block much of the screen. My raid frames (Grid) go over there on the left, where the little red box is. My disease timers (Classtimers) hang out under the rune bars, and DBM timers go on the right of my character. I have Omen in the bottom right because I rarely need to check my threat (the exception is Hodir). My scrolling combat text (Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text) has all messages (debuffs, buffs, etc.) shoot off to the left or right so it doesn’t block the view of my character, which is the most important thing on your screen in a raid.

I have my action bars scaled down a lot and right at the bottom of the screen because I really don’t need to look at them very often. Everything I need to use in combat is bound to various keys (the only spells not bound are things like Path of Frost) and my combat text lets me know when my abilities come off their cooldowns. To get back on topic, I’ve set up my UI so I don’t have to look far from the middle to get pertinent information. And on the occasion where I do need to check my raid frames, or my focus frame (which goes right above the raid frame) I have a lot of things in that area so I don’t have to dart my eyes around the screen frantically searching for bits of information.

So a few tips:

  • Gather all related information together in one area (for me this means right to the left of my character I can see my disease timers, buff timers [for stuff like KM, Freezing Fog and trinket procs] and rune timers)
  • Make sure no mod will hide your character from view (you need to always know where you are in an encounter, especially for fights like Thorim and Sarth, where wrong footing can make you go splat)
  • Try your best not to get too absorbed in your rune timers; always listen to Vent (if you use it), pay attention to DBM and other messages from the boss
  • Play with your UI options until it feels right – if you think you need more information, it’s likely you can set your mods up to give you that (I recently set oRA to notify me of tank deaths). If you need less, scale it down (an example from my UI: I set my MSBT (Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text) to only notify me of hits/heals taken over a certain threshold; for healing, it’s 4000, for damage, it’s around 2k. This helps keep my screen clutter free, especially if I get a Lifebloom or two going on me.

Edit: Here’s a picture of my UI in combat. I really need to set my macro up to ignore errors so I don’t see “ABILITY IS NOT READY YET” flashing all the time.

Razorscale, killing trash.

Razorscale, killing trash.

ITx6 Revisited

3 06 2009

I’ve been raiding with this spec for about two weeks now, and as I get more and more used to it (it takes a while) my DPS improves. When I first started with it, my DPS went down a bit from the dual-disease UP rotation, simply because the rotation is far less structured. Watching Erekose’s video also helped immensely, though it took a while for me to understand his advice. My personal best with the new rotation was tonight, when I felt it really started to click. The DPS is a bit skewed by the fact that the fight took a total of 2:35 and Hodir is the best fight for a Frost DK (we crit a great deal and so can take excellent advantage of Storm Power).

I'm so awesome.

I'm so awesome.

Anyways, here are a few tips that might help soften the steep learning curve that comes with Unholy Presence and this rotation. First, let’s look at the beginning of the rotation and what it’s built to do. For reference, it is IT – BS – OB – FS – BT – IT – FS – OB – FS. The purpose of such a seemingly complex starting rotation (rather than simply going OB – OB – BS – BS / 6x IT) is to set your runes up so they refresh in pairs, separated by 2-3 seconds. This is especially important for your Unholy and Frost Runes. Because you’re going to be using Obliterate to convert to Death Runes, and you want to use all available Death Runes for ITs, you always want to Obliterate with an Unholy and a Frost Rune. Having these refresh together makes it much simpler to do this.

Aside from keeping your runes in pairs, the most important thing to pay attention to is the 2-second window after a rune refreshes where you can still use it and have it come back in 8s rather than the 10 if you use it immediately. This gives you a window to use up some RP before continuing the rotation. In addition, you should avoid using Frost Strikes over rune abilities except in the following conditions:

  1. Killing Machine procced
  2. All runes are on cooldown
  3. You’re about to cap RP

If the choice comes down to slowing your rotation down and capping RP, you should use FS before continuing forward. It’s your most damaging attack (the whole purpose of the ITx6 rotation, which is sort of a misnomer since you won’t really be using 6 in a row, is to maximize Frost Strike through using weaker abilities that generate more RP). and you never want RP to go to waste.

Practice makes perfect

If you are confused, sit on a dummy and practice until are confident in your ability to get your runes to refresh in pairs. Even when you have been using the spec for a while, you can still screw it up mid-fight, or simply have it delayed by moving away from the boss. The benefit of this spec in these situations is twofold; it’s malleable, and not unforgiving if you screw up your rune pairs. In addition, since you’re using so many ITs being out of melee range isn’t always so terrible.

When you inevitably mess up, the best way to get back to good rune pairs is to Obliterate with pairs of Unholy and Frost Runes. Avoid using two Unholy as Death Runes because this will delay the rotation further. And most importantly, don’t panic and cap RP or start spamming Obliterate willy nilly. It’s a hard, but rewarding rotation.

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.

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.