Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fall of the Lich King

I was suppose to report our latest Sindragosa kill last night, but held off the news in the event that our Lich Kings would be successful before the next reset. To all of our great delight, the Lord of the Scourge finally fell, after many attempts and tactical refinements, and when he hit the much anticipated 10% the joy was tangible in our local vent channel.


To a great misfortune, our paladin tank had to endure bad connections throughout the night, which eventually cost him his lich king kill, with achievements and loot when he dropped offline right at the very last moments and did not resurface until we were all staring at the loot boxes. Hopefully the GMs can fix this for us, giving him the credit he deserves along with the rest of us.

Loot included nice pieces, such as Windrunner’s Heartseeker and Troggbane, Axe of the Frostborne King, both eagerly received. Now we can finally get to work on the heroic modes and I dare say, next week’s lockdown will be very exciting.

Thanks for all nine who were with us. Nice work.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blood Tanking in Cataclysm

deathwing My apologies for the long absence everyone. The inevitability of changing apartments was ahead and that always causes downtime on conserved time online. It could not have fallen on a worse spot though, with class reviews being published and I’m now playing catch up on reading on all the changes and trying to make sense of them. For death knights, my favorite class, the changes are significant and I have a feeling we still have not fully able to grasp just how much the class is changing. For the most part is all seems for the better, at least on paper, but until I get down to actually testing it I will hold all hope of improvement. Yes, might sound pessimistic but as the good saying goes “a good idea is worth 10$ but a good execution is worth 10 million $.”

So, lets continue on where we left off last time: blood tanking.

The tanking tree for death knights seems to have been locked down, which is the blood tree. Naturally, this has stirred up a lot of uproar from all sides. Some are upset that their favorite dps tree is going (since apparently they are incapable of respeccing) and others are upset that the unique quality of triage trees is leaving the class.

Personally, I’m pleased that we are finally getting a dedicated tanking tree. For one, all good and meaningful tanking talents are now piled into one tree and Blizzard can actually not perfect DK tanking, instead of trying to make it possible for every john to tank in whichever spec they want, despite the fact that the viable specs will be set around 1-2 trees anyway.

However, while I have nothing against blood tanking, I was perhaps voting for frost. Why? Because blood tanking is revolving too much around the idea of self-healing and it is a major problem with death knight tanking. A lot of people hold that, even in the current game, the fact that blood tanks self-heal, makes them the most survivable tank. However, if you think about it, the harder bosses hit, the less it matters. If a boss can kill a tank with 2-3 hits, the fact that you can heal yourself something like 5k somewhere in between doesn’t really mean squat. Instead, mitigation works directly in your favor and that’s exactly what frost tanking is based around.

Now, this might all change. They say in Cataclysm damage will be a lot like in ICC, with enemies that hit for less but we have less avoidance. I am not truly convinced of this though. Anyone who has tanked Festergut, Sindragosa, or the LK know that these guys hit like a pack of tonka trucks. So if Cataclysm is anything like ICC, we should be prepared for the diminished benefit of self-healing. However, like I said, I am holding out on making my mind because we are also getting Healing Absorption:

“When you heal yourself, you'll receive an additional effect that absorbs incoming damage.”

So, perhaps with extra mitigation, self-healing actually becomes more viable.

One ability that confuses me, is the new level 81, Outbreak:

“Outbreak infects the target with both Frost Fever and Blood Plague at no rune cost. This ability allows death knights to apply diseases quickly when they are switching targets or when their diseases have been dispelled.”

While on the surface this seems like a great idea, it leaves Plague Strike and Icy Touch in a difficult position. For further confusion, Blizzard has announced that they are not looking to make Outbreak a de facto replacement for these two abilities. So, now we need three abilities to apply/refresh diseases? In a world, with the new runic system that actually slows DK attacks down, this feels really strange.

Maybe if we separate Outbreak for dps players only, then it makes more sense, but still, something is really wrong with the picture. If you want to introduce the idea that applying diseases is a concern for just one ability, then it’s fine, but perhaps rather remove one disease from the class entirely then? The more I think about it, the more appealing this actually sounds. Consider it, already, if you want to do any meaningful AoE threat, you must spec frost and use a single disease rotation anyway. The only time you use two diseases is when tanking bosses and even then, Blood Plague feels like a third wheel.

I agree, taking one disease out from the class feels like stripping it of something unique, so far, this is what logic suggests. My guess is, if we end up with three abilities in Cataclysm, depending what abilities generate the most threat, we will go down one of two roads; we dump IT and PS, to simply just use Outbreak, or we dump Outbreak as a bad experiment and continue on with IT and PS.

One ability which the reviews have revealed, is Vengeance:

“This new mechanic is designed to ensure that tank damage output (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will grant a stacking Attack Power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's unbuffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have an Attack Power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Blood tree; these values will be smaller at lower levels.”

This, I think we all agree is universally good news. Tank threat has suffered its share of hardships, growing worse whenever we move towards the end of the expansion. If you are not familiar with this phenomenon, it is mainly due to the fact that tank damage, and there for threat, has no scaled as well as the damage of dps players. Since threat is still primarily damage x threat multipliers, it means tanks do about the same threat as we did in the beginning of the expansion, while the threat of the dps players goes up.

If you have not yet read up on it, mmo-champions have a nice review compilation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blood Tanking

female_dk After weeks of waiting, Ghostcrawler has finally dropped the bomb on death knight tanks and how we will fundamentally change in Cataclysm; we will all be converted into the Blood tree. Yes, you heard me right, we are finally getting a dedicated tanking tree, in the same spirit as paladins and warriors have the Protection tree. A lot of people did not believe such a thing could happen and even personally, I was skeptical, though I hoped, and seems Blizzard has prove us all wrong, for better or for worse. Ghostcrawler will be posting more news on the death knight changes, tomorrow on 8th of April which is when we will be getting more details but we can still collect our thoughts on this change.

After all, this is probably the biggest change to the class that we will see. The actual details of how the class will work are interesting, but just this knowledge, of one, the dedicated tree, changes everything for us and it is not difficult to begin seeing the consequences up ahead.

Was this a surprise? Not really. If you look at the history behind DK tanking in WotLK, there has always been one, the best tanking tree and it has usually always been Blood. Sure, all three trees are viable but Blood has always been the best, thanks to self-healing abilities that it provides and that really is the bottom line when tanking big and hard hitting encounters. It is difficult to describe just how valuable that is sometimes.

Originally, when the class was released, death knights were balanced as having larger health pools and the ability to regenerate it with their special abilities. Much like druid tanks, we needed it because we did not carry shields for extra mitigation. This is something I hope Blizzard can bring back to us, not how we were overpowered back then, but a level of equilibrium between the classes. Today DKs are squishy and it takes a lot of experience and skill to play the class because we rely heavily on our cooldowns to provide what other classes get for granted. Relying solely on death strikes to equal it out is a bad idea, at least in the current game because the fact that you can regenerate %5 (or ever 10%) of your hit points AFTER a boss takes away 80% of them with one hit, is not helpful. But perhaps this is an element that will balance out better in Cataclysm, where we are being told health loss is not quite such unforgiving. Death strike becomes only truly useful in a setting where attacks nibble your health down at a slower rate, where there is more chances to resist the loss and the road from 100 to zero takes longer.

Another big question becomes, how will they now balance the tanking elements from all three trees into one. In its current configuration, the Blood tree has a big drawback, which is AoE. Even a deep frost spec requires a special glyph to speed it up to the level that warriors and paladins run it. Compared to them, in standard AoE setting, we are crawling because we need to setup diseases before we can actually create viable threat. With a total revamp of the trees, this can of course be solved rather easily and my guess is we will perhaps get a glimpse of the mechanic that they are working on. However, regardless of how it is fixed, the point is, it needs to be fixed.

What about dual-wielding? Again, we will see tomorrow but I think we can safely assume DW is an element that will continue to stay in the frost tree. It could become a viable tanking spec, if the necessary talents are somewhere very low in the frost tree and Ghostcrawler did not provide any hints as to the state of this possibility. We shall see what information they decide to provide us tomorrow.