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Cataclysm Beta: Build 12984 death knight changes

In the wee hours of the morning, an (as yet unimplemented) beta build found its way out onto the internet for dissection by the usual datamining suspects. As has become a happy habit with the past few builds, there are death knight changes to be had. Now, these changes don't solve all of our problems. In fact, some of them exacerbate a few of them. However, a couple of the changes are amazingly good, and I'd call this patch, overall, another step in the right direction. Let's take a look at what changed and what it means for the death knight playstyle. As a warning, this patch has not yet been placed on the beta as of this writing, so things may still change from what's here.

General death knight changes
  • All presences have no cooldown or rune cost, but do consume all runic power.
  • Base disease duration is now 21 seconds.
The presence switching is mostly meant to affect PvP. Basically, this means a death knight caught flat-footed doesn't have to worry about wasting a rune to switch to Blood Presence until his healer can get to him, but neither can he build up a bunch of runic power in Unholy Presence, then switch to Frost Presence to unload a bunch of high damage Death Coils or Frost Strikes.

The disease duration buff isn't too bad for unholy, since we have Festering Strike, but it's going to be a bit of a bummer for frost and blood, who will now have to use Icy Touch and Plague Strike more often, eating up another GCD and taking away runes that could have been used for Death Strike and Obliterate. Overall, I have to wonder if there was any real reason to nerf disease duration here. At best, it just makes blood and frost's lives and rotations even more complicated.
Blood
  • Death Strike now heals for a minimum of at least 10% of your maximum health, up from 5%.
This is a welcome change for anyone who's tried to fight stuff as blood on beta lately. That 30% of previous damage idea still makes sense from a boss tanking perspective, but some extra healing power was definitely needed on a trash/leveling basis, so it's nice to see a bit of a un-nerf here. We'll see if they go farther with it, but it's a good, solid start.
Frost
These changes are obviously meant to nerf frost AoE damage, which, given Blizzard's philosophy for this expansion, isn't too surprising. What this will do is essentially make Killing Machine something you save for Obliterate whenever possible. There might be some argument that it's going to be hard to do this, such as if you need to refresh diseases or if you're at the runic power cap, but Killing Machine will definitely do the most damage with Obliterate now. At level 80, a Howling Blast rotation was actually better than Obliterate, so this also may help solve that problem too, although I imagine the dev team wasn't as focused on level 80 balance.

Unholy
  • Necrotic Strike now deals 100% weapon damage (up from 80%) and absorbs the next [75% of AP] healing received by the target (up from 40%); additional effect -- For 15 sec., or until the full amount of healing is absorbed, the target's casting time is increased by 30%.
  • Necrosis is gone and is now replaced with Runic Corruption -- Reduces the cost of your Death Coil by 3/6 and causes your Runic Empowerment ability to no longer refresh a depleted rune, but instead to increase your rune regeneration rate by 50/100% for 3 sec.
  • Unholy Frenzy now causes the target to lose health equal to 2% of their maximum health every 3 sec. (down from 3% every 2 sec.).
The Necrosis change is huge. Gone is one of the most boring passive skills and one of the most problematic for separating dual-wielding and two-handed damage. In its place is a skill that replaces the also very problematic Runic Empowerment and gives us the more predictable rotation, with a small added bonus. The big problem with this skill is that it doesn't really solve our global cooldown problems -- if anything, it makes them worse, since we'll be able to use more Death Coils and our runes will refresh faster. That said, it's far and away better than Runic Empowerment and a great DPS boost, and I really hope it makes it live. The devs can solve our GCD issues elsewhere, I'm sure.

The Necrotic Strike change is excellent news for PvP death knights. Not only is the health absorb have some teeth now, but the extra Curse of Tongues effect should make this a definite must-use in PvP against casters, at the very least. PvErs may even find a reason to keep it on their bar for caster fights, as well. The Unholy Frenzy change is at least a good start, but given the currently issues with soloing and lack of self-healing, it's still at the very least a raid/group-only thing, and even then might not be worth the health drain for the new breed of healing. I'd say the buff needs to be stronger or the health drain removed altogether.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it; nothing will be the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Death Knight, Cataclysm

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