Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So the Collector's Edition WAR beta test has begun!

And, obviously, I'm a part of it. I can't say much since the NDA is still in effect, but I can say that I will be testing tiers 1 to 3. I don't know where, but that was posted by one of the Mythic folks. Anyway, so far the game is awesome. I will be making my next post when the NDA is lifted (also, that will be my 100th post). Anyway, see you all then.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A thought on current DW vs 2H mechanics for Death Knights

I realize this is still beta, and everything is likely to change, but really I just want to vent. I spend a fair amount of time at the Official Death Knight Beta forums, lurking and reading. Now, one of the longest standing problems has been the lack of good DWing support.

Death Knights rely largely on their "Strikes" for their yellow damage, due to cooldowns of other abilities. Strikes are exactly what one would expect: A weapon damage based attack with possibly some bonus damage or an extra effect (or both). For example, Blood Strike is one of the first of these abilities you get. It is an instant attack that does 60% weapon damage, plus X damage per disease on the target (X varies depending on the rank) for one Blood Rune.

Now, anyone who's ever played an Level 40+ Arms Warrior will quite assuredly tell you that attacks of this nature are best off used by a high damage 2H (like Apolyon, the Soul-Render). The reason for this is because the majority of the damage is done by the weapon itself, and the bonus damage can only account for so much (even with abilities that scale, a good two hander will account for around half to two-thirds of the damage). Also, since instant attacks are outside of swing speed (and will most likely be normalized based upon what Blue posts have shown), what will matter is not weapon speed, but damage range (which again, benefits 2Hs).

I went through and figured out which abilities had a low enough cooldown to be put into a normal rune/RP rotation (i.e. every 10-12 seconds depending on if you want to include a two or three rune ability, and 1 or 2 RP abilities), and this is what I came up with (note these are for the next build, not the current one):

Red: Blood Rune
Blue: Frost Rune
Green: Unholy Rune
Purple: Runic Power
Black: No cost

Abilities with too long a cooldown:
Strangulate: 30 seconds
Rune Tap: 1 minute
Vampiric Blood: 2 minutes
Death and Decay: 30 seconds
Army of the Dead: 1 minute
Mark of Blood: 3 minutes
Hysteria: 2 minutes
Chains of Ice: 15 seconds
Unbreakable Armor: 2 minutes
Howling Blast: 30 seconds
Anti-Magic Shell: 15 seconds
Anti-Magic Zone: 2 minutes
Bone Shield: 30 seconds
Icebound Fortitude: 1 minute
Dancing Rune Weapon: 1 minute
Hungering Cold: 1 minute
Summon Gargoyle: 5 minutes
Unholy Blight: 1 minute
Raise Dead: 5 minutes
Lichebourne: 5 minutes
Death Chill: 2 minutes

Abilities with short enough cooldowns:
Blood Strike: GCD
Pestilence: GCD
Heart Strike: GCD
Icy Touch: 6 seconds
Mind Freeze: 10 seconds
Death Strike: GCD(?)
Obliterate: GCD
Plague Strike: GCD
Corpse Explosion: GCD
Scourge Strike: GCD
Death Coil: GCD
Frost Strike: GCD

Now, if you look over those abilities that have a low enough cooldown to be used in every rotation, you'll see a distinct lack of non-Strikes (despite it's name, Obliterate is also a Strike). Arguably, one could shun Strikes and rely exclusively on Icy Touch, Corpse Explosion, and Death Coil since those abilities either scale with AP instead of Weapon Damage (Mind Freeze should be saved for silencing and does less damage than Icy Touch anyway). There are problems with this idea of course too. First off, what do you do with the Blood Runes. Pestilence doesn't scale at all, according to what I'm reading, and generates additional threat, meaning it's crappy if you want to DPS. Corpse Explosion requires a corpse, and once you're out of them, it's value quickly is diminished.

Another idea I had while typing this is using various abilities over the course of a few cycles, meaning a real cycle for you lasts 20 or 30 seconds instead of 10 seconds. Obviously the longer a cycle lasts, the more abilities are added to the mix, so it would require a re-evaluation, but even at that point one can't rely on non-strikes, which means a great hindrance to a DK's DPS or TPS.

Looking at some of the stuff uploaded on Wowhead from the beta, at 77, the highest damage 1H weapon can hit is 353, or if you are using Blood Strike and have two diseases up, that will hit for, at maximum, around 650 damage. On the other hand, if you have the best 2H, it can do a maximum damage of 536, or with Blood Strike, around 850 damage. That's a difference of around 200 damage. Those numbers are assuming approximately 1,700 Attack Power, which is totally reachable as shown by this screenshot from beta.

After doing this math, I came up with a question: While 200 damage may seem like a lot, maybe as time goes on the difference is getting smaller. I ran the numbers, and thanks to normalization coefficients the difference in AP benefits will always be approximately 72.7% between 1Hs and 2Hs. Next numbers I checked were the difference between maximum damage ranges. This is even less in 1Hs favor, with the difference spreading a small amount from the highest quality blues pre-expansion and the best available blues, post-tBC (from 56% difference to 59% difference). If the trend I'm seeing continues (and I see no reason for it not too), 1H weapons doing Instant Attacks that use weapon damage as a modifier will never be comparable to doing them with 2Hs. There are exceptions, such as Mutilate which use both weapons, but that is an exception, and not the rule. Most Instant Attacks (and all the ones currently for DKs) are based on the main weapon.

Now I'm going to go over the individual talents and abilities which specifically be beneficial to each given weapon type. Now this is based on three assumption: Both setups assume equal AP (thus talents which give AP and are based on AP get equal benefit), DW has more white DPS, while 2H has stronger individual attacks (i.e. Weapon abilities like the Strikes).

Black: Core Abilities
Red: Blood Talents
Blue: Frost Talents
Green: Unholy Talents

Blood Strike
Death Strike
Plague Strike
Two-Handed Weapon Specialization
Heart Strike
Might of Mograine
Dancing Rune Weapon
Glacier Rot
Runic Power Mastery
Merciless Combat
Frost Strike
Guile of Gorefiend
Tundra Stalker
Vicious Strikes
Scourge Strike
Rage of Rivendare

Unholy Presence
Bloody Vengeance
Blood Rune Mastery
Will of the Necropolis
Nerves of Cold Steel
Icy Talons
Killing Machine
Blood-Caked Blade
Unholy Rune Mastery

Now, it may seem obvious to some that the quick-fix would be to make all Strikes work with either the 2H or both weapons, but this would be a very, very bad fix. Almost every talent that benefits a 2H more than DWing does so because it benefits a Strike ability. The only two exceptions are Two-Handed Weapon Specialization and Dancing Rune Weapon. The reason for this is because the combined damage of both weapons would almost always be greater than a 2H. Thing about instant attacks when DWing is the trade-off of a greatly decreased hit chance doesn't apply to yellow damage, so attacks which use both weapons work at a 9% decreased hit chance instead of 19+%. Basically we'd go from one extreme of 2Hing reigning supreme to DWing reigning supreme. Not what I want. I want, like so much else, for those who want to DW (like me) and those who want to use 2Hs to be equally valid or at least close enough so that there's a reasonable choice instead of the lopsided situation that we have right now.

Now for a somewhat offtopic point that will go back to my major point later: My biggest complaint about the above listed talents is that there are more talents in the Frost Tree that boost 2Hs than any of the other trees. Frost, which has Nerves of Cold Steel, the DWing talent. Now, I understand the talents like Annihilation, Deathchill, Merciless Combat, and Guile of Gorefiend, which boost Obliterate. But with ones like Glacier Rot and Runic Power Mastery, which boost Frost Strike, a core ability in the Frost Tree, which also is preferential to 2H over DWing, I think there's just something wrong.

The funny thing about Frost Strike is it used to be perfectly suited to 1Hs. Originally it was on a next-attack timer instead of instant (think Heroic Strike) and cost one Frost Rune. This was before the implementation of Blood of the North. At this point Blizzard announced that they had decided to scrap the idea of changing your rune setups, which meant you would only ever have 2 runes of each type, and never more or less. This change was done to ease balancing Death Knights because one would need to consider each setup of runes for each ability or talent, meaning way too much work for Blizzard. But this change also meant the planned Frost Tree, was far too Frost Rune costly, with only 2 Frost Runes.

With this in mind many players clamored for a change of both the availability of Frost Runes (in the form of Death Runes) and the current mechanics of Frost Strike, which was now doing far too little damage for a single Frost Rune since they were so scarce (since it was on next-strike, only the bonus damage actually was an increase in damage). For the latter problem, instead of doing one or the other, Blizzard did both. They changed it to an instant, meaning it was better to use a 2H, and made it cost Runic Power. Now, this coincided with the addition of Blood of the North which fixed the former problem, which was no longer a real problem since Frost Strike now cost RP, and there were far less abilities which called for Frost or Unholy runes instead of Blood.

Now I'm going to get back to my point, which is that for a deep Frost Death Knight, having abilities that mesh well with DWing and using a 1H for your attacks would be wonderful. First problem would be what to do with all the Blood Runes, but this one has already been solved: Blood of the North. Yeah, you need to spam Blood Strike every other cycle (except for the one you're using D&D on), but that's fine if it opens up more damage elsewhere.

Frost could use a Frost-Rune spammable ability that doesn't rely on AP... the funny thing is the best option about this is, IMO, going right back to where we were before, which is having Frost Strike be on next strike and cost one Frost Rune. At max it would allow for 10 or so Frost Strikes over the course of a 1 minute period, in addition to all the damage from the other abilities, plus it wouldn't cost a global cooldown. While one could counter by saying Frost Strike would do more damage as an instant than as a Next-Attack (and one would be right) the same problem occurs again and again: There's no reason to DW with Instants, while DWing while using Next-Attacks works best.

In lieu of making Frost Strike a spammable ability that relies on Frost Runes, the addition of a non-strike based attack would be wonderful. Something simple like a short range, single target instant that does mediocre damage. Doesn't need to be a lot, but enough for it to be worth the rune without needing to rely on the crappy weapon damage of a DWing Death Knight.

For Runic Power, DKs of all specs are fine: Death Coil works great as it stands, and currently Frost Strike is also a good option for deep Frost Death Knights.

The final area of issue Unholy Runes, but the utility that Plague Strike brings (Blood Plague), it's a useful ability, even if it's not perfectly suited to DWing. Not everything can be in favor of DWing, and this is an area I'd be willing to leave alone.

In the end, the lack of viable spammable Frost Rune based ability that does damage based on AP or is next attack (and not instant attack weapon damage) is my biggest gripe. If that was fixed, I'd have no real complaints about DWing because I think it would be in a similar setup to a 2H Death Knight as long as a proper spec was used.