With the patch 4.3 PTR up for a week now, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about its effect on death knights. It helps that I have been playing a decent amount of PTR over the last week, so I have a lot to talk about. Of course, the first thing we'll want to take about is the centerpiece of the patch, the ultimate and greatest feature of WoW to date, transmogrification.
After much trial, error, and agonizing, I've come to conclusion that Acherus Knight's Gear, the original green starting stuff we get upon creation, is truly the best look. For my personal set, I swapped in my Greaves of the Slaughter just because I didn't like the barefoot look, but other than that, it's pretty amazing. If you didn't save your own set, you may be out of luck, but I am hearing rumors that Darkmoon Faire could give us a chance to get the set again. Unfortunately, the Faire's not up for testing yet, so I can't confirm that at the moment.
Of course, you can only play pretty dress-up for so long before you need to go back to slaying monsters (and I say this as someone who absolutely adores playing pretty dress-up on my WoW characters), so moving on, we'll take a look at the rest of this thing.
Judging by the original Bloody Mitigation blog post, we do have more changes coming for tank death knights, but here's what we have right now:
As you can see, the promised Death Strike change is in -- we'll get the shield even if we fail to hit. What this essentially does is put us on the same level as other tanks as far as hit and expertise go. Hit and expertise can still be useful for threat -- if you can't hit stuff, you can't get threat. However, it is now no more important for us death knights to have hit and expertise than it is for any other tank.
It's also worth noting that the promised Vengeance change is in. With a quicker threat ramp up, we may find that hit and expertise aren't even as important for threat as they used to be, either. I'd still caution that this is pretty much an individual choice. You'll need to run a few dungeons yourself, see how your threat holds up, and see if connecting more often would make you feel more comfortable.
The Outbreak change is another long needed quality-of-life change. It is definitely nice not to have to worry as much about dropping a Death Strike (and thereby a large chunk of immediate defensive power) in exchange for the more long-term help of disease debuffs.
Blade Barrier has also gone completely passive, as promised. I think this is probably the best way you could deal with it. The Blade Barrier mechanic was interesting, but it artificially limited the ways in which you could deal with resources because it forced death knights to constantly spend blood runes whether they needed or wanted to or not.
That said, I still think the Blade Barrier change is only half the equation. Runic Empowerment will still cause some amount of rune juggling. Since we'll want to make sure the procs apply to the much more desirable unholy and frost runes, we'll still be using blood runes pretty sparingly. The removal of Blade Barrier means there's more margin of error and less involvement in rune tetris, but it will always exist until Runic Empowerment is gone. With any luck, Blizzard will realize this simple truth before too long, even if we do have to wait for patch 5.0.
What's interesting to note is that this first round of changes focuses primarily on quality-of-life changes to help make our method of gaining defense closer to equal with other tanks. We still haven't really seen the survivability changes we were hoping for yet, other than the addition of a couple extra charges to Bone Shield which, while welcome, aren't going to work for taking care of the spike damage that is our bane. Hopefully, we'll see those changes in an upcoming PTR patch so we can get to seeing how they pan out.
The big change for DPS does cover Abomination's Might, which not all death knight tanks take, but have no fear. All basic attack power party or raid-wide buffs will now offer a double dose of power for melee, offering a 20% attack power buff. This should, of course, be wonderful news for us. Combined with the fact that we haven't been nerfed (so far), we may even find ourselves competitive with warriors.
At the same time, we may not be immune to other changes. The PTR's likely going to stick around for at least another month or so. Right now, we're somewhere solidly in the middle of DPS according to most aggregators, but that's only if you're dual wield frost, essentially. Unholy and 2H frost DPS is somewhere south of that.
Is Blizzard content to leave well enough alone there? We've been on a pretty intense roller coaster of buffs and nerfs this expansion, so it may be they're content to leave well enough alone this patch. Personally, I'd still hope for a de-nerfing of Might of the Frozen Wastes and a buff to Scourge Strike to try to bring underperforming specs at least to the level of dual wielding, but Blizzard's been a bit unpredictable with its buffs and nerfs so far and may be waiting to see how that 20% buff shakes out before it decides what melee DPS changes to make anyway. At the least, though, we're still waiting for those tier 13 set bonuses to get some much-needed buffs.
So far, only End Time is up on the servers, but I can so far confirm that it's a pretty good run for death knights. The short run time is a welcome breath of fresh air after the long, convoluted dungeons we have seen this expansion, and the battles are generally intuitive without being too easy. The final fight of the dungeon features a lovely gimmick where you can "reset time" up to five times. Each time you do so, all your cooldowns are reset, so feel free to go crazy with them. I will bring to your attention that among the cooldowns that reset is Army of the Dead. Do with that what you will. Also, you'll get a nice haste buff, so prepare for wicked-sweet Obliterate or Scourge Strike runs.
Item level will be 378, so not only will casual players and non-raiders find some nice upgrades, but even non-heroic Firelands raiders may find some decent stuff. I have personally seen Temporal Pauldrons and Axe of the Tauren Chieftains drop, both of which should be relatively sought after by non-raiding death knights. Depending on your hit and expertise needs, that axe may even replace a couple of Firelands drops.
Of course, all of this needs to appended with the usual warning: This is the PTR. Things can and likely will change. As more changes roll in, we'll keep abreast of it here, so stay tuned.
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.