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.