The newest content patch for World of Warcraft, patch 3.2 Call of the Crusade, is fast approaching. Following on the heals of the massive endeavor that 3.1 Secrets of Ulduar was, patch 3.2 looks tame in comparison. The class changes are nowhere near as far-reaching, and the new content is much less lore-rich or ambitious than Ulduar. However, a few classes are going to be getting quite the wake-up call as regards changes, and Death Knights are one of the groups on the receiving end of the nerf bat.
Unholy Buffs – From a Certain Point of View
Over in the Unholy tree, we see that Desecration is losing its damage increasing effect. This isn’t actually a nerf, but more of a separation of purposes. Desecration will now be a 2-point talent that is purely a snare. Additionally, they’re fixing the graphic so that it will no longer hide other ground graphics (like void zones). This talent is also being moved up a tier.
In the place of Desolation we’re going to be seeing a new Unholy talent – Desolation. This 5-point talent basically replaces Desecration from a DPS standpoint, and in the talent tier. Desolation causes Blood Strikes to increase all damage done by the DK by 1-5% depending on points spent – for 12 seconds.
From a certain point of view, the Unholy Blight change looks like a nerf, but for many situations it is actually a buff. Currently (circa 3.1) Unholy Blight deals damage in a 10-yard "cloud" AoE around the Death Knight. While it holds a place even in Unholy single-target DPS rotations, the damage is fairly weak when fighting only one enemy, such as a boss. In 3.2, Unholy Blight is being completely redesigned. Instead of being an activated AoE ability it is going to be a passive single target effect. Whenever the Death Knight deals damage with Death Coil (including Sudden Doom procs) it will also inflict DoT that deals damage over 10 seconds equal to 20% of the initial Death Coil damage. It functions the same way as Ignite and Deep Wounds.
3.2 Death Knight Buffs – Blood and Frost
Before diving right into all of the nerfs coming for Death Knights in 3.2, though, let’s take a look at the few "buffs" that we can look forward to:
For one, the damage of the two primary diseases, Blood Plague and Frost Fever (from Plague Strike and Icy Touch, respectively) is being increased by 15%. This is going to make 2-disease talent builds and rotations much more desirable. Additionally, it will help in AoE tanking situations, especially for Unholy DK Tanks who are going to be hurting a little bit after the loss of Unholy Blight’s AoE effect.
Frost is getting a new deep talent called Threat of Thassarian. This new 3-point talent is geared towards dual-wield DPS. When Dual-Wielding, it causes the DKs Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Blood Strikes, and Frost Strikes to deal damage with the off-hand weapon equivilent to around 50% of the main-hand strike. When fully talented the chance for this to happen is 100%, making it incredibly powerful for dual-wielding, and likely causing Frost to once again be considered the dual-wield tree.
Pulling out the Nerf Bat – Beat Those Tanks Down
No class or spec is going to experience as much pain as Death Knight tanks in patch 3.2. The cumaltive effect of these nerfs is that, in general, DK Tanks are going to have longer damage-mitigation cooldowns, less hit points, and less armor. Blizzard believes that this will "equalize" tanks, but as a Death Knight tank myself I can honestly say that these changes are extreme and I hope they’ll be scaled back before the final version of the patch releases.
The problem I see is that Death Knights are not avoidance tanks – No shields, and very few abilities that effect Dodge and Parry. In short, Death Knights get hit more often than, say, Paladins or Warriors. To counter this we currently enjoy damage mitigation, higher armor, and higher health. However, all of those things are being affected in the patch and it will be interesting to see just how severe the results are. Currently the PTR version of my Death Knight tank has 4,000 less hit points than the 3.1 live version – and that is detrimental.
Death Knight Tanking Nerfs Explained
One of the first nerfs up for discussion is the change to Frost Presence. Currently this presence grants 10% bonus hit points. In patch 3.2 this is being changes to 6% bonus stamina. Some have argued that this isn’t going to be a very significant change because it will scale better with raid buffs, such as Blessing of Kings. However, I’ve done the math and it is, in fact, a pretty heavy nerf. It is possible that at the highest gear levels that will be available in 3.2 that the change will have no visible effect, but for those tanks gearing up and those in mid-to-late current content it will be a fairly hard hit.
To add insult to injury, Icebound Fortitude which is a Death Knight tank’s main "oh crap" ability is having it’s cooldown doubled – from 1 to 2 minutes. This creates a problem, particularly for Unholy and Frost DK tanks that rely on their cooldowns like IBF to survive heavy hits – especially on boss fights.
Blood Tanks and Blood/Unholy Hybrid tanks (Veteran of the Third War / Ebon Plaguebringer spec) are going to notice a significant hit to their health pool, as Veteran of the Third War is having its Stamina bonus reduced by half. Instead of a 2/4/6% increase it is being cut down to 1/2/3%.
We’ve seen the health nerfs (Veteran of the Third War and Frost Presence) and the damage mitigation nerfs (Icebound Fortitude), so the only big tanking nerf left to discuss is armor. The armor nerf is coming in the form of Toughness – or in this case, a lack thereof. The Toughness talent at the top of the Frost tree that currently grants a 15% bonus to armor from items is being reduced to 10% in patch 3.2 to bring it "in line with other similar abilities of other classes". I wonder if Blizzard has noticed that "other classes" don’t get hit anywhere near as much, and therefore have less benefit from armor.
And Not Even DPS Shall Be Spared
Death Knight Tanks aren’t the only DKs feeling the hurt in patch 3.2 – DPS-spec’d Death Knights are getting their fair share of nerfs, too.
Bloody Strikes, a 5th tier Blood Talent is receiving a massive nerf. Currently this talent increases the damage done by Blood Strike by 15/30/45% – That’s quite a bit if you spend the full three points. In 3.2 though, this talent as regards to Blood Strike is being scaled back extensively. Bloody Strikes will increase the damage done by Blood Strike by only 15% when fully talented. Heart Strike and Blood Boil, however, will keep their bonus from this talent of 45% and 30%, respectively.
Dancing Rune Weapon, often the object of attention by developers, is receiving yet another rework. No longer will it’s duration be dependent upon the amount of Runic Power the Death Knight has when summoning it – Instead, it has a flat duration of 12 seconds (17 seconds glyphed) and a flat summoning cost of 60 Runic Power. This ends up being a 3-second loss over a 100 RP summon in its current state.
Blood of the North, a fairly deep Frost DPS talent, is being changed from 5 points to 3 points. Currently this talent increases Blood and Frost Strike damage by 3/6/9/12/15%. In 3.2 it will instead be 3/6/10%, resulting in a 5% decrease in the damage bonus when fully talented. This is slightly mitigated, of course, by freeing up two talent points.
Currently Frost Strike is a main source of damage for Frost Death Knights. Frost Strike, in addition to dealing large amounts of damage as a Runic Power "dump", has the added effect of being Unblockable, Undodgeable, and Unparryable. In 3.2, though, that added effect is being removed. This won’t effect DPS Death Knights as badly as it will Tanking Frost Death Knights, because when attacking from behind a boss the player can never be Blocked or Parried. Tanks, though, attack from the front and are succeptable to all three. On top of this nerf, the damage bonus of the ability is also being reduced from 60% to 55%.
Scourge Strike is the main damaging attack of any Unholy DPS or Tanking Death Knight. In 3.2, though, its damage is being reduced. The weapon damage bonus of Scourge Strike is being reduced from 45% to 40%. Additionally, the damage bonus from diseases is being decreased from 11% to 10%.
The bottom-tier talent, Summon Gargoyle, is also being effected. For one, the Gargoyle will "fly" lower to the ground making it easily hitable by melee attacks, and thus less survivable. Additionally it, like Dancing Rune Weapon, is losing its Runic Power duration scaling and being changed to a flat cost and duration ability. Summon Gargoyle will last for 30 seconds and have a fixed cost of 60 Runic Power. Ultimately this ends up being 10 seconds shorter than its current (3.1) maximum duration for 29 less Runic Power.