BlizzCon's just around the corner, and while we discussed bandaid fixes last week, the recent winding down of the class feedback threads and the existence of a class talent panel at BlizzCon itself suggests that we may be getting so more long-term information soon, if not on the death knight class, on the general focus of class development in general. With that in mind, this week I wanted to discuss some of the possible long-term changes the death knight class could use to keep it fresh, relevant, and fun to play in patch 5.0 and beyond, some of which we might just expect to hear about or ask questions about this coming weekend.
Remove Runic Empowerment
Let's be honest. Runic Empowerment is essentially sunk. Even back as far Cataclysm beta, many death knight testers warned that it would lead to clumsy rotations and GCD issues as people tried to "play tetris" to optimize which runes Runic Empowerment refreshed. This prediction has proven true in the long run. Unholy's issues with it were so bad that they got Runic Corruption, and frost's permanent death runes allowed the tree to more or less escape its clutches. Most recently, it's been a huge sticking point for blood tanks, and the Blade Barrier passive switch was made in part to combat the pooling of blood runes due to Runic Empowerment.
At this point, there've been so many complications from Runic Empowerment that it really feels like it just needs to go. If there's no other death-knight-related announcement we hear, I just sort of want to hear this one. Runic Empowerment should just go away in patch 5.0.
Cooling down the global cooldowns
This is, in a lot of ways, hand in hand with the Runic Empowerment issue. There's a reason every death knight DPS uses Unholy Presence. We're so overloaded with attacks that we have no breathing room. We need that one second GCD so that we can unload all our resources.
This is an issue that sort of leaves me waffling. I won't lie, I sort of like the fast, frantic style of death knight DPS, and while a lot of people rightfully want Frost Presence back as a viable choice, I sort of don't want to lose Unholy Presence with that awesome speed boost.
At the same time, it's true that we're stuck in an endless cycle of frantically keeping up with our resources, and it would be nice to have a little bit of breathing room. Of course, fixing this will probably be a bit complicated, if only because we almost always have some offensive ability we could be spending resources on.
The unholy problem in the long run
Last week, we talked about some basic unholy tweaks to keep the spec competitive in patch 4.3. Blizzard chose to go with the Unholy Might buff instead, but what you gonna do? Still, Unholy is a spec that could be a lot easier to balance and a lot better suited for damage, and patch 5.0 is the perfect time to make some bigger changes so Blizzard isn't stuck constantly upping Unholy Might. There is, of course, the argument between factions on how it should be changed. Some say it needs to focus more on weapon damage for scaling purposes, while others argue it should stay the spellcasting style tree and continue focusing on diseases and pets. Regardless, most people agree on the main weaknesses: faulty pet AI, poor scaling, poor AOE damage, and poor burst damage.
With this in mind, it would definitely be nice to hear some long-term unholy fixes at BlizzCon, even if just in the form of talent tree previews. Given the AOE weakness, I'm sort of hoping it might be time to bring back Unholy Blight as an AOE power. Can't be much worse than Howling Blast now, can it? Allowing Dark Transformation to be triggered at will on a cooldown, or to be activated with fewer stacks of Shadow Transfusion, could allow for more control over burst damage. Disabling the Gargoyle's melee so it doesn't keep trying to melee instead of shooting energy blasts could help there too.
Armoring up the death knight tank
While we do have all those Band-Aid fixes coming for death knight tanks in patch 4.3, we'll very obviously need a pretty big revamp for patch 5.0. We can almost definitely expect the first stage of the new tanking paradigm to be revealed at BlizzCon or at least hinted at.
As much as I'd sort of like Blizzard to sort of magically grant blood all that health stealing and regen we've lost, from the health drain on Blood Presence to skills like Mark of Blood, that wouldn't really solve our issues. What we really need is more armor and more mitigation power to match warriors and paladins, even if that means cutting back our self-healing even more. Regardless, here's hoping we know more about what to expect on the tank front after BlizzCon.
Transmogrification, class ability style
With patch 4.3, we've seen some pretty big indication that Blizzard's finally realized that character customization is an important aspect of the game for a lot of people. While transmogrification isn't perfect, it's a great first step to allowing us more control over the look and feel of our characters, not just from a damage or tanking perspective, but from a just plain looking cool perspective.
The next step might just be getting some class flavor up in here. We do, of course, already have some flavor to speak of. Unholy death knights will always have their ghoul up. Blood death knights, as of Cataclysm, will have those swirling bones. Frost death knights will be surrounded by a flurry of ice from all those Howling Blasts in combat.
So how to do you play with that a little more? Cosmetic minor glyphs have, to me, always felt like things that should be given out more freely. Give us geist and skeleton warrior glyphs for our pets. In combat, AOE Unholy Blight with some great swarm graphics could add some much needed flashiness back to unholy. Perhaps allowing Frost, Unholy, and Blood Presences to apply some sort of aura (I'm thinking frost mage's Ice Barrier for a template) could give death knights more of that heroic feeling they've been lacking lately.
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