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Lichborne: BlizzCon cause and effect for death knights in patch 4.3

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Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. In the post-Cataclysm era, death knights are no longer the new kids on the block. Let's show the other classes how a hero class gets things done.

So the past few weeks have actually been pretty exciting for death knights. We saw a lot of new info come out of BlizzCon, including getting a couple long-standing questions answered with new updates to the patch 4.3 PTR. Today, we'll cover the basics of what we discussed with the devs at BlizzCon and see what fruit those discussions have borne on the PTR itself.

Bloody questions

One of the first questions asked at the Class Q&A on BlizzCon 2011 day two was more of a laundry list of blood death knight grievances, such as our issues with spike damage and with avoidance working against mastery. While we have gotten a good bit of dev love on the forums on these beefs, it was actually pretty nice to see it answered candidly on stage, if only to see a dev give an on-the-spot, straight-up answer.

The gist of the dev answer is that they do certainly understand our situation and are trying to change it. Essentially, they believe that part of the death knight tank's appeal is taking higher amounts of damage but being able to heal it back up themselves immediately. Since death knights need less external healing, they need to have some other weakness such as taking more damage overall.

At the same time, it's not acceptable for death knights to take so much spike damage that they die within a couple of GCDs. That is why the devs are working on trying to find a balance, including bumping our Blood Presence up to a 55% armor bonus. They are continuing to keep an eye on things, especially on the new patch 4.3 PTR encounters, to make sure death knights are competitive. Overall, they say, they do still feel like the death knight thing is to go down from 100% to 20% health quickly, but be able to heal that just as quickly.

A lot of us have said for a while that we would be willing to give up a lot of our self-healing for a chance at not taking as much damage already, but it looks like Blizzard is only willing to go so far on that front. We may also be stuck with what is still a lackluster two-piece set bonus this tier. Still, it's at least good to know that Blizzard realizes where the issue is with this self-healing model of tanking, that self-healing can't make up for damage so massive it gets us down in a couple of hits.

Part of the problem here is that we may not be able to come to a complete understanding of where things are going until patch 5.0, when we discover how Blizzard plans to work on that whole active tanking model it's been discussing for a few months now. Until then, however, it's nice to have another sign that Blizzard does realize blood tanks have some problems, and it is actively monitoring the situation and applying some fixes. We may have to suffer through a raid tier with sub-par set bonuses, but we'll at least have the devs looking out for us on all the fronts that count.

Timmy the ghoul gets an upgrade

Another death knight question was posed by Heartless, the owner of the Son of a Lich blog and one of the charter members of the awesome Acherus IRC channel. She asked a question that's been on just about every unholy DK's mind since patch 4.0: Can we see some pet fixes? Namely, she pointed out the failure of critical strike and mastery to scale with ghoul pets and our summoned gargoyle's tendency to use a weaker melee strike instead of its more powerful ranged attack.

This was actually a very cool answer to listen to, because it really does show a moment of genuine connection between the developers and us, the players. The developers seemed to have a moment of epiphany as they finally understand a major issue unholy players have, to the point of admitting that unholy death knights as a spec are at a major disadvantage in that some secondary stats are wildly unattractive for them. Of course, they did end the answer with the usual boilerplate: They don't want to mess with a spec's mechanics or stat weights too close to the end of the expansion, but they'll try to get it right in patch 5.0

So all in all, we had what could be considered a good BlizzCon. We got a decent review of some intriguing talents (more on that next week), a couple of good questions asked, and a couple of good answers provided.

But things really took off after BlizzCon. Bolstered by the question, Magdalena, another active unholy community member, posted a thread on the official forums outlining the possibilities of allowing ghouls to scale with mastery and critical strike rating. She got a blue reply. Ghouls would, in fact, start scaling with critical strike rating. Not only did that happen, but a patch note update revealed that our summoned gargoyle would lose the weak, annoying melee attack.

The fallout of these changes is still being analyzed. There's some concern that critical strike rating may become more valuable than mastery, but it's generally agreed that it will be a very small margin. In either case, it will be a small price to pay for having a pet who's a little more strong and for critical strike rating's not being completely toxic like it once was. Besides, haste is still king and likely to remain king until at least patch 5.0, and strength should still be the gemming king for the forseeable future, so you shouldn't have to swap around much more than a couple of reforges at most.

The triumph of the death knight

The big thing to take away here is that the devs are listening, and good communication gets results. This is why BlizzCon matters and why our community matters. I'd guess we still have at least another month until patch 4.3 goes live. That means we have more work to do. Get on the PTR. Parse stuff. Test the changes, and if they're not good enough, get numbers and anecdotes to back that up. If they are good enough, start figuring out how that's going to change your playstyle when the patch goes live. It's a great time to be a death knight. The devs are listening, we're seeing changes, and we're having fun.

Now if only they'd buff Might of the Frozen Wastes.

Before I sign off today, I thought I should remind you of the best news to come out of the PTR. If you sold off your old starting zone gear, do not despair. Quartermaster Ozorg, an Abomination on the lower level of Acherus, will sell you all the old starting zone armor and two-handed weapons, both green and blue level, for low, low prices. I'm one of the dudes who kept this stuff tucked away in my bank, but I'm sure there's more than one of you who didn't. It's also worth noting that the Replica sets now being sold at the Darkmoon Faire are not class-specific, so unless that changes, you will have a chance to impersonate an old-school warrior or paladin if it be your desire.

Learn the ropes of endgame play with WoW Insider's DK 101 guide. Make yourself invaluable to your raid group with Mind Freeze and other interrupts, gear up with pre-heroic DPS gear or pre-heroic tank gear, and plot your path to tier 11/valor point DPS gear.

Filed under: Death Knight, (Death Knight) Lichborne, BlizzCon

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