Since the last time we talked, we have seen a couple of new updates to the Mists of Pandaria beta. There haven't been many earth-shattering changes for death knights, but some of the changes have been significant enough that it's worth talking about both what they mean for the class and what they may imply about future updates.
It's difficult to say where Blizzard is going with our class in Mists, if only because they haven't said much. They've started talking on the beta forums, but they haven't directed anything at the death knight class yet. This isn't completely surprising. Our class is not in a horrible place right now, and the beta's young. Chances are we'll get our turn eventually.
That said, having developer feedback is useful for figuring out how to mold your own feedback. Knowing what a developer intends with a certain change can help us test that change with a better understanding of how it fits in to a larger vision. In absence of that, however, we can still look at the implications of these changes to see what we come up with.
Self-healing tier gets some TLC
Conversion's become one of the more controversial and greatly argued talents of the new system. Some say it's too powerful because you can turn it on and never run out of health regeneration as long as you have runic power. Others argue that it's incredibly weak both because runic power generation has been nerfed in Mists and because it prevents you from using other runic power dumps, especially ones that do actual damage, which in turn prevents your rune regeneration abilities from activating. Regardless of which side you fall on, it's generally acknowledged that only two-handed frost, thanks to Might of the Frozen Wastes, had the ability to keep it going for any significant amount of time.
Blizzard's weighed in on the Conversation debate with a rather sizable nerf. Runic power regeneration is now reduced by 50% when Conversion is active, up from 30% before. Blizzard's also upped Death Siphon's base damage exponentially, which suggests it's trying to make the tier a little less clear-cut.
Still, I think Death Pact is going to hold a death grip on the tier for many death knights. The straight-up 50% of maximum health heal scales nicely, doesn't kill your pet, and has a reasonable cooldown, making it hard to resist. Death Siphon will probably be the runnerup, since although it doesn't scale, it now has a chance to do something more closely approaching a decent amount of health drain and isn't constrained by a cooldown.
Conversion's going to need more consideration, I think. The more I test with it, the more it's just a bit awkward. Being completely cut off from all runic power and rune regeneration procs while you try desperately to regen more runic power to keep the chain going is stressful at best and has a strong chance of just making you ineffective, especially since you'll need to actually stay fighting, low DPS and lack of resources and all, to continue to regenerate the power.
The bloody fight over Blood Tap
The rune regeneration tier continues to have issues. Runic Corruption still provides the best bang for your buck, with Runic Empowerment having the same rune tetris-style problems, among other issues, and Blood Tap requiring not only an extra level of skill due to the manual activation but possibly not delivering superior rune regeneration in the process even if you weave it into your rotation with optimal efficiency.
Blizzard has made a small adjustment to Blood Tap, possibly hoping to fix it. The charges you can store for triggering a Blood Tap are now up to 10, and you generate 2 per runic power dump instead of 1. However, with 5 charges needed to trigger Blood Tap, the rate you spend them at all remains constant, so this means you get a minuscule change at best.
Blood Tap remains another hotly debated topic in the death knight community. Some believe that it deserves to stay baseline in its current Cataclysm-era form, simply because having the ability to get an extra death rune when needed is important to our playstyle. This is especially true of frost death knights and Pillar of Frost. Others are content to keep a choice but will say it probably needs something more to recommend it, such as perhaps some small innate rune regeneration buff.
I'm still a fan of being able to choose your rune regeneration proc method, personally, so I'm hoping the basic idea of this tier stays intact. Still, it seems obvious that there's going to have to be adjustments to keep the three options competitive with each other, and we'll be interested to see where it goes.
Goodbye, Ghoulie: Glyph changes
Among the glyph changes this patch is a further buff to the new Glyph of Shifting Presences, allowing you to keep up to 80% of your runic power. Unfortunately, presences as they're designed right now don't really lend themselves for changing in combat in the course of normal play, so it's unclear how useful this glyph will be unless presences themselves receive a huge overhaul like we discussed last week.
Glyph of Dancing Rune Weapon now boosts threat on Dancing Rune Weapon by getting rid of damage rather than parry rating. There's still the question of whether we need that extra threat in this era of tanking, but it's at least not as detrimental to take. Certainly some newbie tanks may find it helpful now. Still, if you don't need the extra threat, extra damage is much more useful to have, even for tanks.
In minor glyph news, we finally got some awesome cosmetic glyphs. Now that Horn of Winter has a base duration of 5 minutes, the Glyph of Horn of Winter now creates a small local snowstorm. Imagine a Handful of Snowflakes from the Winter Veil season but multiplied by five, and you'll have a general idea of how it looks.
Don't worry, though. I've saved the best for last. Glyph of Blood Tap is gone, but it has been replaced by something better -- Glyph of the Geist. Finally, the most badass undead creature is ours. Unfortunately, it's still a little buggy. The unholy permanent ghoul is still a ghoul even with the glyph in place, but if you're frost or blood, you will get a geist. And with a geist, your power will be supreme, and nothing will stand in your way.
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.