Lichborne: Testing notes and goals for death knights in the Mists of Pandaria beta

Daniel Whitcomb
D. Whitcomb|03.27.12

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Lichborne: Testing notes and goals for death knights in the Mists of Pandaria beta
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.

With the Mists of Pandaria beta test under way, I'm reminded of an interesting discussion I've seen going around the death knight community. Coming out of Wrath, we were most definitely seen as overpowered, and starting a few patches later, we started off on a balance roller coaster we've never quite disembarked from, getting nerfs, de-nerfs, tweaks, and even the removal or redesign of entire spells and systems.

Some argue that we could have avoided this by being more thorough and honest while beta testing in Wrath. By not only advocating for what we needed but being honest that some stuff (such as, say, the stun effect on Death and Decay) was overpowered, we might have avoided a lot of heartache down the road.

Whether you believe this is true or not, it does highlight the importance of beta testing. Blizzard certainly has its own internal numbers and testing methods, but for those of us lucky enough to get hands on in the beta, this is our chance to help make sure our class gets through this great period of balancing. This week, let's look at a few things we'll need to focus on when we finally get those invites and get to beta test our death knights.

Testing in the balance

Balance, of course, is the overarching thing to test. Do we still stack up in tanking? Do we still stack up in DPS? If you remember back in Cataclysm, we caught or predicted a lot of issues that have been the focus of multiple patches during the Cataclysm era, from the rune tetris issues of blood tanking to the GCD capping issues of DPS.

However, balance isn't always so easy to predict or parse, especially in beta, when we don't have the huge number of samples we'll have on live. This means collecting good, solid data is more important than ever. If you're going to argue that we're too squishy or our DPS is too low, have figures. Have facts. Have parses. The more facts we have, or at least the more arguments we have that can be derived from actual math, the more likely we'll be able to help mold the class successfully.

Test rotations and runic ruminations

While you'd think there wouldn't be any earth-shattering changes to our rotations (certainly not on the level of Scourge Strike changing to a single rune), you might be surprised. The big issue here is going to be the fact that we still don't appear to be getting a lot of our runic power generators and savers back, from Chill of the Grave to the Death Coil runic power cost reducer on the current live version of Runic Corruption. We'll definitely want to see how easy it is to live without them.

That's just the beginning, though. There are bound to be more tiny ways our optimal rotations could break and stretch, and beta's a good time to not only iron them out but to determine how far those changes go and if we need to ask for some adjustment.

Of course, if we simply find ourselves using a new and different rotation, that isn't a bad thing in and of itself. It's just new. In that case, we just need to figure out if it's too complicated and whether the timing is so off or the damage so low as to be unacceptable.

Glyphs: The quiet revolution

The new glyph system has sort of been quietly pushed out, but in many ways, it's just as revolutionary as any other gameplay system tweak this expansion. Prime glyphs are gone, and we're returning to major and minor glyphs. However, this time, many glyphs will offer nothing more than fun cosmetic options, while others will change how certain skills work on a very basic level, and still others will replace talents removed in the Mists revamp.

It's pretty obvious that death knight glyphs haven't been finished yet -- for one, we still don't have a glyph that makes our ghoul look like a geist -- but there are already some pretty intriguing changes. Glyph of Death and Decay now essentially takes the place of Desecration, while Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell takes the place of the Magic Suppression talent. Glyph of Death Coil now puts a damage shield on a non-undead ally but cannot be used on yourself. This is probably for the best, admittedly, or it would essentially be mandatory for tanks. Glyph of Tranquil Grip now removes the taunt from Death Grip. I'm guessing there are some tanks who will buy a stack to hand out in dungeons and some 5-man dungeon-running DPSers who may take the glyph to help their tank with pulling and positioning.

With glyphs, our focus should be on figuring out the power and utility they provide. Are there compelling glyph choices for each spec? Are there any glyphs that overpowered or underpowered? Are there any missing glyphs? Are there any removed talents that deserve to come back as glyphs? Why don't we have a glyph that makes our pet look like a geist yet?

A talented DK can make a difference

The talent system as it currently appears in beta isn't horribly different from the one we've been previewing, but there have been changes made, many of which seem to have come about from our feedback.

The removal of Bone Shield we've already discussed, but the latest build includes the removal of Vampiric Blood (which is now baseline for blood tanks) and its replacement with Conversion, a talent that converts runic power to health over time. This seems to fit much better on the tier, providing what at the least is a very compelling choice for any spec -- assuming, of course, our runic power generation isn't gutted by the removal of so many talents. There is also an argument that this talent is still clearly superior for death knight tanks on the tier.

Still, it is an example of how our voices are heard. We let Blizzard know that Bone Shield and Vampiric Blood were just too mandatory for blood death knights, and it went out and found new, better talents for us. If we can keep stuff up like that, we'll come out the other side of the beta with a class we can be proud of.

As of this writing, the Pandaria continent isn't even unlocked in the beta, so we're at a perfect time to prepare. Hopefully by the time it unlocks, we'll all be invited and ready to level to 90 so we can properly test and understand this stuff and be ready for the big time when the expansion goes live.

Just remember a few simple rules. Keep it civil, back up your assertions with numbers and facts, and if something doesn't get changed in beta, don't sweat it -- just keep making the issue known until we get a patch fix on live. Good luck.

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.

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