Monday, July 23, 2012

Positive News for the Unliving

Death Knights have gotten quite a few nice changes on Beta.

In fact, most of these changes are changes that me and many others in the community have been begging and pleading for.

As promised, the WoW development team carefully reevaluated Soul Reaper, our new, massively powerful level 90 execute ability. They have decided that opposed to a Death rune or runic power cost (which was determined to be far too punishing a cost for DW Frost because they'd have to sacrifice Frost Strike) each spec will have their "signature rune" as a cost. 
This idea was proposed months ago by one of (she actually reads my blog now, I have to behave!) my favorite Death Knight in the community, Tsukiyuri. The idea seems difficult, but is actually extremely elegant. Although each spec has a different cost, it's a very fair one considering the power of Soul Reaper.

For Unholy, Soul Reaper will consume an Unholy rune, taking the place of one Scourge Strike (the "bread and butter" strike for unholy) every 5-6 seconds. This sounds bad, but it's actually wonderful- because Soul Reaper hits so much harder for Unholy than it does for the other specs. It will make for very fun, and non-mindless gameplay with excellent reward.

For Frost, Soul Reaper will consume a Frost rune, taking the place of a Howling Blast every 5-6 seconds, limiting AoE burst sub-35% somewhat, but it's really at a fair price.

For Blood, Soul Reaper will consume a Blood rune, taking the place of a Heart Strike (or more likely, nothing!) every 5-6 seconds. A very cheap cost, to be sure, but a sensible one, as Blood will have significantly lesser damage per Soul Reaper strike anyhow, so a less punishing cost is fitting.

This change alone greatly improves the class's gameplay, and grants us again the flexibility we had lost when Soul Reaper cost a Death rune.

The loss of a Death rune cost also means that Blood Tap is no longer mandatory or even optimal for DPS specs. Instead, we  get (rated on average runes per minute) Runic Empowerment > Runic Corruption > Blood Tap. This ordering makes perfect sense. Runic Empowerment requires a more difficult, more punishing variety of gameplay, but with great reward. Runic Corruption means a straightforward, predictable, but inflexible playstyle. Blood tap is the epitome of flexibility, but is the least efficient. (Also, Blood Tap was changed to now take part in the 1.0 second class wide GCD, so no more macroing it to every Runic Power attack.)

Now each spec has a real choice to make when it comes to talents. Unholy Death Knights will probably all stick to either Blood Tap (especially if in PvP with Necrotic Strike) or Runic Corruption as Runic Empowerment fully breaks Unholy's rotation. Frost Death Knights really have a difficult decision to make, but I'll bet most end up with either Runic Corruption or Runic Empowerment, as they have naturally occurring Death Runes- devaluing Blood Tap. Blood will almost certainly take Runic Empowerment or Blood Tap- RE for the additional efficiency and control, and BT due to the flexibility and on-demand Death Rune in a bad situation. The best thing is that there is no longer a clear cut choice. Each spec has at least 2 valid picks that change gameplay significantly, and I couldn't be happier.

Another significant change is that Blood Boil has been added to Reaping (thanks largely to Roth's campaigning!). For the uninitiated, this means that the rune you spend on Blood Boil will come back as a Death rune. This is huge news for Unholy Death Knights, as this means that they now will have a more reliable, strong AoE that will add to their rotation's progression, rather than detract from it.

For you who PvP, Necrotic Strike has received a significant buff, both to damage and heal-absorb (and we can all thank Tsalera of Kil'Jaeden for an excellent theorycraft initiating this!). It still costs a Death rune for now (though it seems like the development team is beginning to understand this isn't such a good idea), but at least it will be worth hitting.

They've also fixed a long standing Death rune bug where Death runes get spent/regenerated in an incorrect order. We should see this fix in a build probably next week or the week after that.

Finally, several bug fixes and buffs have been given to Army of the Dead, Timmy the perma-ghoul, Timmy the summoned-ghoul, and Gary the Gargoyle.

It should also be mentioned that Frost is having some stat-parity/stat-scaling issues right now, so it isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Thankfully, this isn't going to be game-breaking in 5.0-5.1, but in later tiers it could develop into a problem if it isn't addressed. Hopefully this will be looked into by the development team soon.

All told, I'm greatly encouraged. These fixes have really improved the fun and effectiveness of Death Knights, and I'm really looking forward to Mists of Pandaria right now.

A few quick thank yous-
Roth (Rothulean of Nesingwary), Mags/Maggy (Magdalena of Darkspear), Tsuki (Tsukiyuri of Dragonmaw), Mione (Mionee of Auchindoun (I think)), Heartless of Gnomeregan, Euliat of Gilneas, and all the others lurking in #Acherus.

EDIT: Going to add some pictures when I get home to break up what became a bore of a post.