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Lichborne: The effect of the new stat changes on death knights

Daniel Whitcomb
Daniel Whitcomb|March 6, 2012 7:00 PM
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Lichborne for blood, frost, and unholy death knights. In the post-Cataclysm era, death knights are no longer the new kids on the block. Let's show the other classes how a hero class gets things done.

We're still a couple of weeks away from the dam burst that is the Mists of Pandaria press event, but in the meantime, Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street has posted a new Dev Watercooler. He listed some stat changes coming in Mists that, while ostensibly not as complicated as those in Wrath, still hold some interesting and possibly major implications for class balance in the coming expansion. Let's dive right in and see what they mean for death knights.

Blocking takes a week

While it doesn't directly affect us, the blocking changes will certainly shake up the tanking hierarchy that we're a part of, so it's worth pointing out that the usual single roll combat table for dodging, parrying, or blocking a hit is gone. Instead, the chance to block will be calculated only after the dodge and parry chance is calculated. This essentially means that being unhittable is gone. You can't just stack to 102.4%. Of course, death knights and druids have never been able to do this, but they will now be joined by the shield tanks.

Of course, I expected something more drastic, as you may recall, such as the removal of block or possibly dodge from warriors and paladins, but this change seems to mostly serve the same function while still leaving paladins and warriors with a little extra help in the damage avoidance department. But if this works and block becomes just a unique mechanic to certain tanks rather than a leg up that allows one to ascend to the ranks of untouchable, we'll have a lesser chance of seeing monks, druids, and death knights become second tier in later patches as gear reinflates. Then again, Blizzard told us during the Wrath beta that we wouldn't be GCD-capped, either.

Spell resistance can't resist this

Spell resistance and penetration are gone as well. No more resistance gear, no more buffs, no more racial abilities. This one does affect us in a few ways. While resistance fights haven't been in vogue for some time, there were still instances where resistances came in handy, especially for tanks. Most serious tanks probably still have a Mirror of Broken Images in their bags just because that resistance boost is still amazing enough to be worth the stat hit for some fights. With spell resistance gone, you'll finally be able to vendor that trinket. Other than that, our class wasn't around for the worst of the spell resistance days, but it's still nice we won't have to return for that.

Hit, expertise, and critical strike rating

One of the most worrying parts of the new Mists calculators was the absence of Runic Focus, which not only gave us some extra critical damage on spells but ensured we wouldn't miss with our spells as long as we got to the expected melee hit cap. DPS death knights were going to sleep every night with nightmares of having to find 9% more hit on their gear in their heads.

As it turns out, we won't be needing that old thing anymore. Not only will the 200% critical damage on spells thing be a baseline feature for all classes, but expertise, which is changing to a percentage-based stat like hit, will also apply to spell misses. Since spell miss is at 15% hit, the expertise dodge cap is at 7.5%, and the special attack/two-handed melee miss cap is at 7.5%, this means that as long as we get to the expertise and two-handed melee hit caps, we'll be at the spell hit cap too. It's unexpectedly elegant and helps us streamline our gearing so that we don't feel obligated to pile on too much boring hit when we'd rather be hitting more interesting stats.

Of course, this does in theory still leave dual wielders out in the cold, since the article doesn't mention that their extra-high weapon swing hit cap is coming down. But then again, dual wielders haven't really felt obligated to hit that cap anyway, since other secondary stats become more valuable once the usual melee special attack cap is reached.

One thing that may make things interesting here is the possibility that expertise trinkets could be useful to spell casters. Since spell miss applies to expertise, that expertise/haste trinket could be a legitimate upgrade for that mage in your group. In addition, ranged attacks can be dodged now, so the hunter will probably be rolling on it too. That may be bad news if you lose a roll or have outspend them on DKP. On the other hand, Blizzard's been on the gear consolidation train for ages, and you kind of have to admire how elegant this one little change has turned out to be.

PvP changes

PvP changes are a bit more general, but it's worth mentioning them anyhow. Not only will resilience be changing to PvP defense, but we'll be getting some of it baseline -- about 30% worth. In addition, PvP power will be a new stats that increases damage done to players. Since it won't take up any item value, one assumes it will be stacked on top of the strength and other secondary stats already on gear, thus allowing strength increasing abilities like Unholy Might to at least partially stack with it. The other advantage may be that since PvP gear will have lower item levels but have it made up by the new stats, there may be a slightly smaller chance we'll have to deal with fellow group members inflating their gear scores with PvP gear.

This also brings up the chance of PvP and PvE play being separated even more. Death knights have had to deal with the specter of PvE abilities being nerfed because of PvP for some time now, and while separate PvP stats aren't a direct sign that's ending soon, it's a sign in the right direction. The more we can get the two sides separated, the better we can stop living with this particular Damocles' sword over our head. This upgrade's for you, Hungering Cold.

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.