January 13, 2009

One more round of Death Knight changes in 3.0.8

We've covered 3.0.8 pretty extensively, between Mike Sacco's coverage of the initial round of changes and our week before last discussion, but the devs weren't done yet. With 3.0.8 likely to make it to live servers in the next week or two, this is probably a good time to discuss the Death Knight tweaks that have gone in the last few PTR updates.

Killing Machine

So I said that when Howling Blast's cooldown went away we'd probably have to see some other adjustments to prevent dual wield 32/39 style builds from dominating in Death Knight DPS meters, and we have seen one. Killing Machine has been nerfed to a simple proc-per-minute talent instead of proccing off critical auto attacks.

In theory, this should have bought down the damage of dual wielding by making the number of procs of killing machine roughly equal between 2-handers and dual wielders. Unfortunately, some testers are reporting that this is not the cases. Right now, it's estimated that the new Killing Machine maxes out at about 5 procs per minute -- but because Killing Machine applies to each weapon individually, dual wielders are getting 10 procs per minute to a 2hand wielder's 5.

To add to this, Necrosis, one of the premiere dual wielding talents, is also getting a buff up to 20% of auto attack damage done as shadow. Once again, since dual wielders do more white damage than 2-handed weapon wielders, this is a clear dual wield build buff that easily makes up for any loss from Killing Machine. Some also argue that dual wielders were often forced to let Killing Machine procs go to waste anyway for lack of runes or runic power, so a few fewer procs won't be as much of a nerf as it first appears.

Ghostcrawler has said they'll take another look at Killing Machine to make sure it's not favoring dual wielding too much again, but the 2-handed versus dual wielding debate continues, and more and more, dual wielding seems like the victor, at least in the PvE DPS arena. More and more, there's a growing fear that this may be inevitable. Dual Wielding just plain scales better.

When Enhancement Shamans first gained the ability to dual wield, there were still quite a few 2-hander die hards who were afraid that their playstyle would fall to the wayside. This has pretty much turned out to be true. 2-handed damage just can't keep up in any way with dual wielding for Enhancement, and Blizzard's made no real move to support 2-handers for enhancement. Now, for Death Knights, Blizzard has said they want to keep 2-handers viable. But dual wielding's excellent scaling may just be too inexorable in the end.

I imagine this nerf will hardly be the last word in the attempt to balance the two, though. Even now the debate rages, with many Dual Wield disciples saying that 2-handed Death Knights should be happy that they can tank with 2-handers, and many 2-handed Death Knights saying that the developers promised that 2handers would always be competitive as a DPS method. Either way, I'm expecting another round of balancing come 3.1.


Yeah, Gargoyle got nerfed. I think everyone knew it was coming at some level. It was an amazing source of DPS, so much so that Blood Death Knights found their DPS was better if they dropped Dancing Rune Weapon and picked up Gargoyle instead.

Those days are probably over. Not only was the Gargoyle given a slight nerf to its base damage on the PTR, but its duration was sliced in half, to 30 seconds. I've yet to see enough parses to give a final verdict as to whether it's underpowered now, but it's a harsh nerf, regardless.

It may also end up being another facet of the 2hand versus dual wield debate, despite being unrelated to weaponry. Unholy is considered the only spec where a 2-handed Death Knight has a chance to keep up against Dual Wielding, and that was in large part because of the Gargoyle. Overall, there's some concern that nerfing the Gargoyle may have knocked one more 2-handed spec further down the ladder, widening dual wield's lead in the DPS meters.

Still, if the Gargoyle -- one talent -- was what we 2-handed disciples needed to pull even to dual wielding, that certain wasn't the optimal situation either. There's other adjustments that should be made to bring 2-handers in line with dual wielding, and those adjustments should certainly apply to at least Blood 2-handing as well.

Death and Decay Rune Nerfed Again

Finally, and perhaps inevitably, the Death and Decay glyph was nerfed to completely remove the cower in fear portion. Now it simply increases Death and Decay damage by 20%.

The fear portion of Death and Decay has actually been steadily weakened ever since it came out. It used to be on the spell itself, then was moved to a glyph and made weaker, and finally has been removed altogether. After a fashion, it's simple enough to see why Blizzard did it. Being crowd controlled has always been one of the major complaints from PvPers, and in glyphed Death and Decay, you had a set it and forget it Crowd Control method that made a small area around the Death Knight a no-man's land. Sure, you can argue that it's possible just to run right out of it, but Death Knights had ways of preventing that too, from Desecration and Death Grip to Chains of Ice.

In PvE, this may also be a bit of a blow as well. A Lot of tanks actually used the glyph for AE tanking, since having that fear effect both contributed more threat and more damage avoidance (mobs can't hit you if they're cowering in fear, after all). However, that extra 20% damage may end up being good enough anyway. That's a lot of extra threat, probably even more than the fear effect itself provided.

If I do have a criticism for Blizzard on this, it's that they should have seen this coming in Beta and just shut off the fear effect for good before the Death Knight class ever made it to live servers. If this fear effect was going to be overpowered in PvP no matter what, it probably shouldn't have made it live, allowing plenty of Death Knights to become used to and enamored of it before it was completely snatched away. I get the feeling that they somehow sensed it might become problematic, which is why they removed it from the base spell and sent it to the glyph.

Perhaps, though, they didn't think that everyone (or at least almost anyone seriously competing in PvP) would take the rune, making the fear portion ubiquitous anyway. It's one of those things where one isn't sure why Blizzard didn't see it coming. Maybe they were just overly optimistic?

The Removal of 2-handed tanking weapons

The removal of these weapons really shouldn't surprise anyone who's been following Blizzard's design philosophies and decisions since Wrath. 3.0.8, remember, is also the patch where they removed Feral weapons as a unique itemization type, so suddenly adding tanking 2-handers in this era of loot consolidation seems a little off. I myself predicted a while back that this was probably just a stopgap measure while implemented more loot to fix Death Knight defense itemization issues in later patches. It seems they decided that they didn't want Death Knights to get too attached to defense weaponry, which is understandable, and taking defense weapons out now instead of getting angry Death Knights demanding to know why there are no tanking 2-handers in Ulduar later is for the best in the long run.

I don't think this should affect Death Knights negatively in the long run, certainly not with the Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle, which provides 25 defense skill and +2% stamina, going in. It gives us the opportunity to go for high DPS 2-handers with high strength and high agility, giving us a lot of extra avoidance and threat. In the end, as long as we get enough defense on our other gear, I think not being limited to a couple smithed defensive weapons will be nothing but a blessing. In the meantime, you can use the mats you've been saving on a Titansteel Destroyer.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see from these changes alone, and from the ones we've discussed before, Death Knights in 3.0.8 are going to have a bit of adjusting to do as they work through these changes, and likely more to do when Blizzard gets some more balancing in in 3.1 and 3.2. To some extent, as the new class on the block, this is expected. We'll probably still need a bit more help before we really find a place in game where both we and Blizzard are happy with our performance. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that with a minimum of growing pains, but either way, Lichborne looks forward to cataloguing it.

Dispel resistance mechanics changing in 3.0.8

Here's a mechanics change that's been sort of sitting in the 3.0.8 patch notes that deserves a closer look: Dispel resistance mechanics via talents are being changed.

As Ghostcrawler describes it, essentially resistance mechanics will now only protect your harmful damage over time spells and your buffs. Other types of Debuffs and Crowd Control effects, such as Fear, Psychic Scream, and Ebon Plague, will no longer be able to take any bonus from dispel resistance talents such as Silent Resolve, Contagion, and Virulence.

It seems like it's one more way in which, since Wrath of the Lich King came out, Blizzard's been shying away from crowd control mechanics as anything more than a stop gap measure, in both PvP and PvE. Whether this will hold up in the long term remains to be seen, but crowd control artists, be prepared to recast those spells just a bit quicker.

Spiritual Guidance: 3.0.8 for Priests

I thought we'd be getting the 3.0.8 patch last week. I guess I need a new magic 8 ball. Hopefully it will come out this week instead. In any case, here's several of the big changes you can expect along with a list of bug fixes. Mind you, most of these aren't game or class breaking type changes.
At least, not to me. You may feel otherwise.


Circle of Healing has a 6 second cooldown Yep. I've wrote about this at length. We shouldn't be surprised at that.


Silent Resolve now reduces the chance your helpful spells and damage over time effects will be dispelled by 10/20/30%. (Old - Affected all spells) You can more in detail about the Silent Resolve changes in Daniel's post regarding Dispel resistances and their changes. But in a nutshell, Fear will not be protected with Silent Resolve whereas Renew or Shadow Word: Pain will continue to be.


You can now cast Cure Disease and Abolish Disease while in Shadowform. This will help out on certain cleanse happy fights. A great example of this would be on Heigan. Raid leaders can now task Paladins, Shamans, and Priests of both specs to help cleanse, if necessary.

Shadowform: You can now shift into Shadowform while mounted or sitting. Vampiric Embrace: Mana cost of this spell has been removed. The Shadow brothers can switch to their dark forms at any time. Hooray for increased flexibility. It's also nice to see VE being free.


Glyph of Spirit Redemption - Increases the duration of Spirit of Redemption by 6 seconds. (Old - All heals cast while Spirit of Redemption is active have a 20% chance to increase the remaining duration of Spirit of Redemption by 4sec. Heh, this might make a few Priests feel all sad panda like. There's an interesting PvP spec for Priests that involves stretching down to Spirit of Redemption. The theory is that if the Priest dies, there is a chance that the Priest can continue to heal non-stop with this glyph active and keep their partners alive.

With this change, that strategy will no longer be possible.

Bug Fixes

This patch introduces some bug fixes for Priests.

Dispersion: This ability can no longer be cast while affected by Cyclone; doing so consumed the cooldown to no effect. Guardian Spirit: It is no longer possible for simultaneous killing blows to trigger the heal from this ability multiple times. Improved Holy Concentration: The tooltip has been rewritten to indicate that this talent reduces cast time rather than providing haste. Mind Flay - Fixed a bug with targeting where you would not deal damage if not facing the target while channeling. Also corrected an issue where the damage from this ability was slightly delayed. Prayer of Mending: Will now only benefit from the healing talents of the priest who cast the original spell. Rapture: This talent will now correctly return mana for Power Word: Shield based on the caster's mana poll instead of the target's mana pool. Shadow Weaving: Shadow Word: Death: Will now only apply one copy of this buff per cast. Shadow Word: Pain now will gain the correct damage modifiers for the creature type of the target. Surge of Light: Prayer of Mending will no longer sometimes cause Surge of Light to trigger on Priests who do not have that talent. That last bug was an interesting one. I wondered why I'd get a Surge of Light proc when I was full Discipline. I guess that's going the way of the dodo.

The fix to Rapture will help us a lot. When shielding Warriors or Feral Druids, it was disappointing to see minor gains in mana until I read about this bug. Nice to see that's been fixed!

So when I was asked on Twitter if this patch will change Priests to become worth playing again, there wasn't much I could add. If Wrath wasn't enough to make you play a Priest, then this patch isn't going to change your mind much. We will still be renowned for our versatility and ability to adapt.

TalentChic updates for Wrath

Remember TalentChic from a couple months ago? They mine Armory data to show the most popular builds for each class and playstyle (playstyle being determined by what kind of gear is equipped, which is slightly iffy, but it's hard to do better with Armory data). Anyway, whether you remember them or not, they're now updated for Wrath, with level 80 and Death Knight builds.

There isn't a lot there that surprises me much. I wasn't expecting 51/13/7 to be the most popular DK build, though; everybody seems to be talking about dual-wield builds, which this decidedly is not. Balance comes in much lower on the Druid specs than seems to be the case on my realm, but my experience might just be biased.

As tipster Waluigi mentions, DPS specs dominate for many classes (notably Paladin and Priest). However, Resto is the most popular shaman build, and a tank build is most popular for druids, so this is not the case for all classes. It'll be interesting to see how this develops as more people hit 80 and get to endgame activities.