The patch 5.4 PTR has seen its first round of updates, and with those updates has come a handful of death knight changes. We had most of our earth-shattering changes in patch 5.2, so while there's nothing completely major here, there are some welcome surprises and good quality of life changes, mostly focusing on making it easier for tanks, both in general and blood tanks in specific, to keep threat. Today, we'll take a look at the patch 5.4 patch notes as they stand at this writing. As always, this is the PTR, so class balances may change pretty drastically before the final patch goes live.
Blood gets more threatening
Only a few weeks after I speculated on the possibility of making DPS stats more useful for tanks, Blizzard has played with my expectations, as it is their wont to do, and turned them on their heads. Now, instead of DPS stats being more useful to tank, tank stats have been made more useful for DPSing with Riposte.
It's not a straight-up boost, since you first have to dodge or parry, and then, and only then, will get a temporary boost to your critical strike chance based on 50% of your Dodge and Parry. This causes a lot of interesting hypothetical situations. If you need more threat, it will probably still be more use to get the more dependable hit and expertise caps, but you now have the option to stack more parry and dodge in order to boost both threat and defense, and use defensive trinkets or cool downs that increase your dodge or parry chance as makeshift DPS cooldowns. The one downside here is that the critical strike boost is calculated off of ratings, so it appears it will be ignoring such mechanics as strength-to-parry conversions, which could make it less powerful than one would first think, as much of our parry comes from that conversion and from runeforging.
Blizzard's stated reason for doing this appears to be giving death knights and warriors a way to get DPS from mitigation stats, as paladins can already get both from haste, while druids and monks can get both from critical strike. That said, If there is a downside here, it is that death knights have traditionally prioritized avoidance far below mastery because of its antagonistic relationship with said stat. This, in fact, may be Blizzard's attempt to get avoidance back on the map for death knight tanks. Whether it's enough or not remains to be seen, especially as, again, the boost will ignore much of the parry we have in the first place. That said, much like warriors, we may see a change to make Riposte's critical strike chance more desirable in an upcoming build.
Blizzard also provided another buff that may be called a DPS increase. Now that Dancing Rune Weapon needs no runic power, that's 60 more runic power one can use on more Rune Strikes. It also makes it easier to deploy the cooldown at a moment's notice when you need some extra defense. Since it provides a boost to parry and dodge chance, it should also mean more chances to trigger Riposte.
Of course, the other change arguably somewhat negates the need for a DPS increase for tanks. Taunt abilities (in our case, Dark Command and Death Grip) will now also provide a 200% threat increase while active. This means you can use the taunt to build extra threat even if the mob is already on you, which should make single target fights a little easier to handle, at least, as while as helping to assure that you can save that DPS who refuses to stop burning the mob even as it eats his face off.
Talents get bandaids
The Anti-Magic Zone change has proven controversial, but it may arguably be a buff. With the absorption limit gone, this means it can more easily soak up large amounts of damage from sustained magic damage effects in a raid, as long as said effects occur within a 3 second window. Arguably, the main thing that changed is the exact situation it should be used in, leaving it simply powerful in different situations than it was before.
Death Siphon gets another damage buff, but the main problem remains the same. It's just not as powerful as using our main strikes, and the fact that it costs a death rune means its awkward to fit into your existing rotation, especially for two-handed frost death knights who have to split up an Obliterate to properly use Death Siphon. Death Pact still remains the clear winner of this tier. Death Siphon has always been rather situational, and this buff won't really change that.
Plague Leech's change seems to acknowledge the death rune problem in the same way Death Siphon's change does not. Plague Leech, while technically a DPS boost if used properly, is often avoided by your average death knight because it is difficult and annoying to use properly. By tailoring the skill to refresh the exact runes you need to unleash your signature 2-rune strike, it makes it at least a little more convenient to use, by assuring you'll get back the two runes you need most. Keep in mind, though, that you'll still be left disease-less, so once those runes refresh, you'll still need to have a disease application method ready to go, and Plague Leech will preclude the use of at least one of those methods, Unholy Blight. This is a change that won't really solve the base issue with Plague Leech, that it's too annoying to use, and my feelings about it really remain the same as they did before patch 5.4.
Glyphs and other changes
Icebound Fortitude is now free to use by default, which is definitely welcome news for DPS. While Icebound Fortitude has always been a survival option, now it's one that doesn't reduce our DPS by forcing us to give up valuable runic power. All death knight DPS should already have this ability hotkeyed, but now it's even easier justify pushing the key.
The glyphs don't really change anything major, especially for PvE. I've argued in the past that Outbreak should have no cooldown by default, but the need for runic power to activate it on the glyph isn't even a question of losing DPS, it's a question of needing to reapply diseases at a critical time or at the start of a battle and having no runic power to do it. 10 runic power shaved off the top won't change that reality.
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.