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Blood Sport: Resource mechanics in arena, Part 2


Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women? Blood Sport investigates the entirety of all-things arena for gladiators and challengers alike. C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in's arena column.

Listening Music: Fiona Apple's "Paper Bag." The video and song are both unique, brilliant, and enthralling. I'm a huge fan of brevity, but I want this song to last longer. I wouldn't mind if Fiona just sang the same thing twice. I absolutely adore her style. If you don't feel the same way, it's not a big deal -- Paper Bag is an acquired taste. You might appreciate other songs by the same artist, although be warned -- Apple sticks to what she does best.

Last Week: Resource mechanics in arena, part I. Last week, we considered rage, energy, and its green-headed stepchild focus. Our discussion revealed rage to be a mixed bag in most situations, while energy/combo points had many more benefits than detriments. Focus, basically, is slower energy without combo points.

This Week: We'll be talking about the death knight resource system (runes/runic power), and mana for dps casters. Why not healers? Read on after the break to find out!

Disclaimer: This column is about arena PvP. Even though the author has extensive raiding, soloing, and battleground experience, this article has the perspective of a gladiator. The benefits and detriments described therein prescribe to these conditions, as they would be quite different in other scenarios. In short, if you're going to write a comment about how an ability or resource is different in another area of the game, you're not doing (reading) it right.

WoW's death knight rune system borrows heavily from rage, energy, and combo points. When we understand this, we can more easily comprehend the benefits and detriments of runes and runic power.


A rune bar isn't unique, it's just a complex energy system. Runes replenish over time, just like our well-known yellow bar -- so we get most of the benefits of energy: infinite, replenishes while crowd controlled, etc. We can save our runes by not using global cooldowns to create burst with a rune dump as well.

Runes, however, are far more complex than energy. Runes come in three different flavors. There are two of each kind of rune. Certain spells cost only one rune of a certain type. Other abilities cost two or three different runes. On top of this, death knights get certain talents that turn runes into death runes, which can be used as any type. Confusing? Compared to the other resources, definitely.

Runic Power

Runic power is something in-between rage and combo points and is much more unique. A class could actually be built using nothing but runic power, even though it would be boring.

Runic power starts at zero, just like rage. It also slowly deteriorates over time. However, unlike rage, runic power does not scale based on how much damage the death knight generates or absorbs.

We have two different kinds of abilities -- ones that generate runic power (builders), and abilities which use the runic power that has been generated (finishers). This is starting to seem a lot like combo points.

In essence, the death knight is running around with a complex energy bar (runes) and a really whacked out rage bar / combo point system (runic power). This combo-point-rage-bar, however, is pretty awesome because it allows the death knight to use it gradually. Combo points have to be used all at once, and drop completely if you begin to use builders on something else. Also, if you want, you can use it like a damage dump and store it all to burn through when your runes are regenerating.

It's pretty much the best of all worlds.

There is a downside. Compared to the other resource mechanics, the rune system requires a lot of diligence and attention. There's a lot going on with that resource system. Six runes of three different types which can occasionally turn into runes of any type -- on top of a blue bar that works completely differently. Wow.

A benefit of PvPing as a death knight is that your opponents don't know what runes you have available. Our very own Zach Yonzon talks about the finer points to defeating opposing death knights in this week's edition of The Art of War(craft). Check it out if you'd like to read more.

Pros: All the great parts of energy, rage, and combo points. Opponents don't know what runes you have available.

Cons: Exceptionally needy for attention.


Mana is the only resource mechanic available to healers. We won't be talking about healers in this article (they all use the same resource system, and it's probably the best one for balance concerns). Healers need to go oom. Mana Burn needs to be an effective spell and strategy -- if healers never went oom, many or most of our games might go to the 45 minute mark.

Other games have had healers use other mechanics, so the possibility to see an energy-based healer exists if WoW decides to go that path for a future hero class. We won't be discussing those implications today -- perhaps another time. Keep in mind that we'll be talking about dps in arena that uses mana.

Compared to energy (2), rage (2), rune system (1), and focus (0 -- 1/2 if you count hunter pets), lots of dps classes in arena use mana (7). In no short order:

  1. Priests
  2. Warlocks
  3. Mages
  4. Druids (balance)
  5. Hunters
  6. Shamans
  7. Paladins
Mana is without a doubt the worst resource mechanic in arena PvP. Eevery class listed above has to sacrifice something in order to get their resource back, with one exception.

Hunters have to sacrifice damage with Aspect of the Viper. 50% reduced damage? Seriously? When's the last time you saw a death knight cut his damage in half to get back some runes?

Mages have to sacrifice time and damage with Evocation. The spell is also on a long cooldown, has a long cast time, and can be interrupted. Rogues don't sit back and channel Adrenaline Rush. While Mana Gems have helped mages considerably, the casters still suffer in long games.

Warlocks might have it worst of all. Not only do they have to sacrifice time and damage (lots of globals), but health too (Life Tap)! Warlocks actually help their healers go oom. Warriors would be furious if they dropped in health every time they generated rage. (Yes, I know about Bloodrage -- the ability is there to serve in times of rage lull, not a default way for a warrior to generate their resource like Life Tap).

Innervate can be dispelled (and costs a global). Mana Spring Totem can be killed. Water Shield replaces a more effective alternative and the shaman still goes oom frequently. Shadowfiends can be kited or killed. Dispersion makes it so the priest can't attack or cast spells. Oh, and each of those abilities take time to cast and most of them are on fairly long cooldowns. You can fill in the other stuff I haven't mentioned, there's plenty to go around.

Dps classes that use mana are completely useless once they go oom. A mage without mana and no way to regain it is as good as dead. "Drain teams" in The Burning Crusade would often drain the mana of opposing spell dps, correctly realizing that once their mana is gone, your match has devolved into a 5v4.

So, with that said, let's talk about the single exception to the rule.

Retribution paladins have a ridiculously easy time getting mana back and don't sacrifice anything. A normal rotation allows them to have ample mana to do lots of damage (as well as other utility). Thank you, Judgements of the Wise. If they absolutely need to, they can sacrifice something for a short period of time by casting Divine Plea, switching to Judgement of Wisdom, or even Seal of Wisdom -- but such a case is rare.

The retribution model is fantastic, it'd be nice to see something like it on the other dps specs on mana classes in Cataclysm.

Pros: Least attention-based...until you get low.

Cons: All your best abilities have long cooldowns. You're also constantly on global cooldown. The possibility exists of becoming completely useless (oom). All mana users except retribution paladins need to sacrifice something to get mana back. Opposing teams have abilities to decrease your resource mechanic (Viper Sting, Drain Mana, Mana Burn).

Next Week

We'll probably be getting back to our arena guide for beginners! We got a tip through our tipline that Blood Sport should define some terms (great suggestion). I'll probably be preparing a glossary for us to look at. Take care until then, and enjoy the new arena season.

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