With the latest build having just hit the Cataclysm beta test servers, this seems like a pretty good time to take a quick inventory of the changes, maybe say a few things about the direction that the class is heading thus far in beta. I can tell you right now that some of the latest changes are either confusing or just plain silly, and while some things are looking cool enough, we really are long overdue for another major change patch. However, before we get too hardcore into that discussion, let's look at the latest changes.
A dirge for runic power
As of the latest patch, Dirge now affects Blood Strike, Plague Strike and Icy Touch. However, it no longer affects Scourge Strike and Festering Strike. Essentially, this makes it near worthless for endgame two-handed unholy, while further cementing the dominance of dual wielding.
Here's the main issue: Currently, endgame unholy rotations completely skip the use of all three of these skills by using Outbreak to apply diseases and Festering Strike to maintain those diseases and use up blood runes. Assuming everything works out, other than emergency disease reapplication when Outbreak is on cooldown, we'll not be using those skills, meaning Dirge does next to nothing for us.
Blizzard's main aim with this change is probably to relieve Unholy's GCD problems by giving us fewer Death Coils to shoot off this. This is certainly understandable, but part of the problem is that it once again bolsters dual wielding. Since dual wielders find that Icy Touch plus Blood Strike will do more damage than Festering Strike for them anyway, they can cast those, get the runic power, cast more Death Coils and continue to dominate.
At this point, I'd say Dirge just needs to get wiped out. If we have enough runic power generation without it, throw it away. Personally, I'd love to replace it with a talent that resets the cooldown on Outbreak (or gives you a temporary free cast of Outbreak) when you kill an enemy that grants experience or honor, thus cementing the new unholy rotation.
Morbidity and the slow death of AoE
Blizzard's latest salvo in the war against AoE has been to apply restrictive cooldowns the "set it and forget it" types of AoE spells such as Consecration that have allowed huge pulls and AoE speed runs since the BC days, and apparently, it decided Death and Decay needed another hit. The Morbidity talent no longer reduces the cooldown but gives it a damage buff.
Unfortunately, this continues to complicate the death knight tank's life. Even with the morbidity cooldown, Death and Decay was not constantly up, but now that it's even less available, we're left with two major AoE damage options: Heart Strike and Blood Boil. One provides an important debuff, the other better threat against up to three targets. However, they both use the same runes, blood runes, and using them means you give up using the damage absorption on your mastery. Blood tanks currently wait too long for runes to refresh anyway (and may need to save those runes for tanking cooldowns anyway), and this will just make things worse for them.
What a death knight needs
In short, we're obviously not done as a class in Cataclysm, and the latest changes and the new masteries only highlighted this. Hopefully, we'll see another patch with some major death knight changes soon. Specifically, I'd like to see the following points addressed:
- the lack of free global cooldowns, especially for unholy
- the dominance of dual wield unholy
- the over-focus on blood runes for tanks, to the point of rune drought
- the current failure of the rune system revamp, or at least the failure of the current default rune display UI
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