It's been a few weeks since we last discussed patch 5.4 from a death knight perspective. In that time, we have seen the dreaded fix to the RPPM bug for rune regeneration, but we have also seen unholy buffs as compensation. The first numbers pass for death knights also brings a good chunk of buffs to the death knight. Let's dive in and take a look.
The fix is in for RPPM
We went over the RPPM bug in a recent column, but let's recap. This bug (Which is still on live servers) causes your RPPM items and trinkets (such as the Fabled Feather of Ji-Kun) to have a higher proc rate when rune regeneration is higher from sources such as Runic Corruption and Improved Blood Presence.
The reason for the nerf was simple enough. It made Runic Corruption too good. Even frost, which would work better with Runic Empowerment otherwise, now wants Runic Corruption for those extra procs (assuming you have the Throne of Thunder RPPM trinkets). Blizzard does at least try to avoid making one talent mandatory on a tier, especially for all specs of a class, so it makes sense they'd make this change.
The consolation here is that in return, they converted the attack speed and rune regeneration buffs on both Unholy Presence and Improved Unholy Presence to straight haste buffs, meaning unholy death knights get 20% haste, which will directly affect their RPPM rate, meaning the loss of that very important bug (which is likely one of the reasons Festerblight reigned supreme for so long) won't hurt them as much. Frost and blood didn't receive similar buffs, likely because the bug wasn't as baked into their class' power and didn't affect them so drastically on live servers. High end frost knights didn't use Runic Corruption before this bug was discovered, and high end blood knights don't count on RPPM procs to perform their duties as much.
Overall, this seems like a very reasonable response, balancing the need to fix a bug with the acknowledgment that this bug has been unknowingly in effect for quite some time and has had a very real effect on the power of the class. I would expect it to go to live servers, along with the dreaded fix of the bug itself.
Numbers passes and the usual suspects
Many of the latest death knight updates on the PTR should look suspiciously familiar to any veteran of the class:
- Necrotic Strike now does 100% weapon damage, down from 150%.
- Frost Strike now does 115% weapon damage, up from 105%.
- Howling Blast damage increased by 30%.
- Might of the Frozen Wastes causes all melee attacks to deal an additional 30% damage, up from 20%.
- Obliterate now does 250% weapon damage, up from 230%.
- Unholy Might now increases your Strength by 25%, up from 10%.
With that in mind, it's easy to understand why Blizzard would choose to make these basic changes rather than work on completely new mechanical updates. As the (likely) last raid dungeon of the expansion approaches, it makes sense to allow death knights to continue fighting without feeling like they have to completely relearn their class. All of these changes allow the class rotations and priorities to continue unchanged, with every skill simply hitting hard enough to keep them competitive in DPS.
There's a few concerns left with these buffs. The first is that the buffs to Howling Blast and Frost Strike might be so good that they force 2-handed frost death knights to switch to a masterfrost based gearing strategy and rotation. That said, preliminary math suggests this won't be a problem, at least at first. Masterfrost is just inefficient enough for 2-handed death knights that haste and Obliterate should still win the day. This might change with enough mastery-based raid gear out of SoO, though. That said, if this does look to be a concern in these last few weeks of the PTR, I would expect the Howling Blast buff to be toned down somewhat to prevent it.
The other issue is the gap between two-handed frost and dual wield frost. Right now, preliminary math suggests dual wielding frost will still top the charts on AoE battles, but will lag significantly behind 2-handed frost in single target fights.
Note that the August 14 PTR patch note updates also included a buff of 1% (from 2% to 3%) on Rune of Razorice, but this buff is no longer present on the test servers, and thus may have been rolled back. If it is put back into place, it could solve the single target problem. On the other hand, it may have been revered for making dual wielding too strong, or forcing 2-handed frost to switch to Rune of Razorice. dual wield frost may just have to settle for AoE supremacy at the cost of some single target DPS this patch.
With around a week to go on the PTR, there's still a chance these buffs could be reverted, but if they aren't, DPS death knights should be a in a solid position going into patch 5.4.
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.