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Cataclysm Class Changes: Death knight analysis, page 3


Mastery bonuses

Blood
Damage reduction
Vengeance
Healing Absorption

Healing Absorption: When you heal yourself, you'll receive an additional effect that absorbs incoming damage.
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 may very well be the most solid set of masteries for the class from what we know so far. Blood's big tank weakness has always been a lack of proactive damage reduction, and here it is, the first mastery stat. Vengeance should nicely make up for all the DPS talents we can only assume are leaving the blood tree.

Healing absorption is, in theory, a relatively decent skill, but only assuming blood gets some really massive self-healing or the healing absorption itself is a lot. In theory, the streamlining of talents will probably be designed to allow or even encourage blood tanks to pick up, say, Mark of Blood and Rune Tap, which will probably be some of the mainstays for activating this ability, although they will probably need to be buffed from their current totals to be worthwhile. Again, what we need here are solid numbers so we can make real judgments on the abilities here. The other concern might be that if blood death knights are so focused on self-healing, it gives an extra dimension to their tanking that may make blood tanking more frantic than other tanks. Still, it does at least sound like a more dynamic and interactive third mastery than the other two death knight trees, so overall I'm going to be cautiously optimistic about this one until we get more numbers.

Zarhym
Frost
Melee damage
Melee Haste
Runic Power Generation

Runic Power Generation: This will function as the name implies, and the new rune system will make generating Runic Power more appealing.

The relative merit of the frost tree masteries, again, will probably be more evident once we know more about the numbers behind the new runic power system. If we have more down time, though, having more runic power to keep spamming Frost Strikes could in theory be very useful. The large gaps of downtime in rune recharging can filled with runic power attacks. Of course, the usual caveats apply. This assumes the numbers properly line up and we have a decent selection of runic power abilities so that we're not just mindlessly spamming Frost Strike. I'm also concerned about the melee haste mastery. Can they make plain old melee haste valuable to frost again, and valuable to both 2-hand wielders and dual-wielders?

Zarhym
Unholy
Melee damage
Melee and spell critical damage
Disease Damage

Disease Damage
: Unholy death knights will be able to get more out of their diseases, which are integral to the tree's play style.

Given that unholy already does a lot of melee damage through weapon strikes, and uses critical strikes both for Scourge Strike and for Wandering Plague, the first two masteries seem solid enough. Given that we do do a pretty solid amount of disease damage, the third one is solid too and likely considered a replacement for Crypt Fever.

Still, my concern again is that the third mastery is sort of a completely unremarkable workhorse. Where shadow priests are summoning balls of pure shadow energy, balance druids are getting a sun and moon damage meter, and Arcane Mages are getting a mastery that makes them balance mana recovery and damage dealing, both frost and unholy death knights are getting some near-invisible workhorse bonuses. Now, I know we're hardly the only specs stuck with that fate, but It's still a bit of a bummer, especially for unholy who, as I've mentioned, has had a lot of their flash and unique style removed for the sake of balance. It's possible Blizzard will balance this out with cool talent toys, but for now, I feel like that if you're going to give some classes cool toys and interesting mechanics for their third mastery, you should do it for everyone. Give me Crypt Fever for my extra disease damage, and let me use my third mastery to proc some form of the Bone Shield we lost, or maybe randomly summon Army of the Dead-type minions to fight at my side (without taunting) for a few minutes. I want something that either challenges me to add a new dimension to my DPS rotation, or something that makes me look flashier when it procs.

As long as we're on the subject of unholy, I should remark that I was a bit concerned not to see disease clipping addressed in the notes. It is a DPS loss and a concern for us as well, especially since unholy is more or less forced to disease clip to keep Ebon Plaguebringer up. Considering most other DoT classes and specs got it, I'd like to see it for us too. That said, it's possible we are getting it, but it was not put in our preview for some reason. Again, we need the beta so we can check on this stuff for sure.

Frost 2-handers and other notes by Zarhym

So of course, after we got all this stuff out of the way, Zarhym and Ghostcrawler did chime in later with some comments and clarifications. We've covered some of them above, but there were a few more things Zarhym said that I wanted to cover.

Zarhym
Here are a few points of clarification:
  • We want to provide a 2-handed style for Frost since we recognize that pets are an acquired taste. We think we have the design space to do that now that we don't need to support Frost tanking. We're definitely committed to making Frost work as a dual-wield tree though -- that isn't going away...
  • We're not sure how we're going to handle presences yet. We recognize the oddness of Blood death knights playing in Frost Presence and Frost death knights not playing in Frost Presences. We might rename the presences or take some other action.

The 2-hand frost news is of course welcome for those death knights who don't want to deal with pet control. Me, I love my ghoul (even if I do wish he was a geist), so I'll be sticking to unholy DPS most of the time. Of course, we'll need to watch closely in beta to make sure 2-hand and dual wield styles are properly balanced against each other. They've had trouble balancing both in the past, but they seem to believe that they can make it work now that they don't have to also fit in frost tank talents -- which may well be true.

As far as presences, I honestly have no problem using them interchangeably, but chances are they'll redesign them or at least name-change to make it less confusing for newbie death knights. I wonder if they'll just straight up change the name on Frost Presence to Blood Presence and vice versa, or if they'll do some redesigning now that blood could genuinely use the health steal on Blood Presence for their third mastery.

The bottom line

The bottom line is this: We need more information. We have some bare-bones indications of how things will change in the basic mechanics of the rune system and the announcement of the blood true's role as the exclusive tank tree. However, without the added benefit of information on the new rune and runic power costs of abilities, we can't do more than speculate on how this will work out. The same goes for talents and masteries.

In addition, I'm a bit concerned that all the new abilities past level 80 are solidly PvP-oriented and have only limited applicability in PvE. That said, we do have a pretty solid skill set in PvE already, and there's at least some hope that the talent redesign will shore up and spice up many existing rarely used abilities.

I'm also hoping that Blizzard remembers to allow each tree to retain a signature look and feel that establishes it as unique and fun to play beyond just the mechanics alone. This is especially concerning because the developers are moving one of unholy's last truly iconic unique skills, Bone Shield, to blood, and because the two DPS trees have decidedly lackluster, unglamorous third masteries compared to some other specs.

I have to say for now that I'm cautious, anxious to see some problems fixed (or to get some hands-on experience with them in beta and find out they aren't problems after all) and impatient for the beta. We can't really move forward until we have either the beta or more solid numbers. Without those in mind, we can only look at the report and think, "Well, I suppose this feels like it might work." Knowing that we have a new rune system and a massive shuffling of talents only goes so far when we don't know how we'll be spending those runes, how we'll be filling the new gaps between rune usage, and what talents will survive, which will get axed and which will get moved. Once we know that, we can move forward.


World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

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