Monday, October 18, 2010

Death Knight | Which Presence Is Your BFF?

Last week I posted my overview of the new HOT DPS spec for Death Knights. I made a nice little blog post covering most of what a seasoned DK would need to know for this patch. What I didn't realize at the time was that there was an undercurrent issue plaguing the DK community.

Which presence? [See 10/22/10 update below]

That simple question drove the trolls out in SWARMS to my postings (mainly on YouTube - amazingly everyone on the site was quite friendly) all saying the same thing: UNHOLY dps should use UNHOLY presence. So I thought about it and I decided in the sake of being bipartisan I'd actually take a look and see which one is better for the main application of my post, which was PVE DPS. Keep in mind I'm not a mathematician IRL or in game, so used the tools I had at my disposal - a stopwatch, recount, WWS, and my computer. I logged in and decided to just try them out to see. I would set some guidelines for validity and stay as close to those as humanly possible. Here were the rules;
  • DPS for 2 minutes, at that time I would withdraw my pet and stop the log.
  • I would follow the same rotation for each, the very one I outlined on my last post.
  • I would only use my self buffs; excluding food, flasks, scrolls, and drums.
  • I would only use Unholy Frenzy as an offensive cooldown and omit Gargoyle / Racials.
  • I would allow sufficient time between attempts to reset trinkets.
  • I would DPS on the very same target dummy on the very same night.
So there you have my method. It's not exact science but then again neither am I. I've always tried to be as "average joeish" as I could for this blog, and I'll leave the science to the folks over at EJ. So let us begin with what I found. I believe the best place to start would be with the actual presence themselves and we can talk a bit about them. For the sake of the test, we'll cover the important aspects of each.

Frost Presence - The main feature of this spec is a damage output increase of 10% and runic power generation increase of 10%.

Unholy Presence - The main feature of this presence includes a rune regeneration increase of 10%, an attack speed increase of 10% and a reduction of the global cool down by .5 seconds.

At first glance it looks like UP has a clear advantage but I wanted to look a bit deeper. I began to analyze actually what each component meant in terms of raid DPS. I began to ask myself questions about what outside factors could make a case for either. Now, it is very true that Blizzard has made UP more appealing to use for PVE DPS - I'm not arguing that. I am saying, however, is that it wasn't enough.

First, UP creates runelock. Runelock by definition is when you have no runes to use abilities that use runes and you have no runic power to use abilities that use runic power. This means you cannot do your job save for meleeing with your big stick and that would net a DPS loss. Sure UP increases your rune regeneration rate, however that 10% in not enough to overcome a .5 second reduction on your global cooldown. If UP granted HASTE it might be enough to overcome the runelock, since haste increases rune regeneration as well - but it doesn't. During my test I spent MORE time runelocked in UP than the inverse. In face, with FP I spend NO time runelocked.

Second, a flat increase to your damage output is subject to a larger overall modification of said output than an increase to one aspect - in this case attack speed. By increasing output by a flat 10%, any buff that would increase attack power, melee haste, and/or critical strike has a higher eventual outcome than those buffs entering into a melee attack speed increase THEN output. Does a melee attack speed increase benefit from more AP, haste, and crit? Of course it does but that benefit would not be as much as taking all buffs into account, producing some output, THEN tacking on 10% more damage. I'm sure there is math behind this, however like I stated before I'm ill-equipped to handle that.

This was my theory on paper. So I decided to head back to the test dummy to see what I could come up with. I used the aforementioned rules and recorded each trial to my combat log. I then uploaded those reports to WWS and took a look at each one. The links will be provided to the WWS reports, but given the short nature of these (30 days until deletion) I took some screenshots to accompany them. This first image is over overall dps (including my pet) for each presence.

As you can see, the DPS output is very similar over the 2 minutes of combat. UP yielded 7463 dps and FP generated 7584 dps. At first glance I was confused by the result, considering some of the comments posted claimed HUGE discrepancies between the two. While most claimed UP was doing 2-3k more dps, I figured if their claims were correct I'd at least see SOME increase for UP. However I did not. To further strengthen what I already was beginning to think, I began to hypothesize what could make FP even better. So I referred back to my paper theory and realized that when raid buffs are applied (actual buffs, food, flasks, etc.), FP would pull even farther ahead in terms of DPS output - regardless of my result being already higher.

Next are the individual parses on each trial as well. These are included so you can get an idea of the abilities I'm using. It will also allow you to see that my rotation was very similar and cooldowns relatively uniform. Keep in mind these don't include PET dps, only my own personal dps - before someone goes nuts!

Unholy Presence [Link]

Frost Presence [Link]

In closing, know that the only thing that is certain are death and taxes. Also, we'll never get our pony from Ghostcrawler. I'm not a mathematician or a Stephen Fucking Hawkins of WoW, I can only take a situation and apply what I know to test it and as a result achieve an outcome. Is FP better to use for PVE dps right now than UP? In my honest opinion, yes. I can only come to this conclusion based on limited napkin theory and also by just plain testing it out. Will Blizz change it otherwise or once we hit level 85 will it be different? Possibly - even probably I say. I personally like the idea of matching your presence with your spec, I think that makes sense. 

For right now, I'll be that unholy Death Knight using frost presence in your group that is on top of the charts.

Update (10/22/2010)
So after reading some more information and speaking with other DK's in the community I decided to give UP one more shot. I crafted a spec that included Improved Unholy Presence (which gives us 15% haste) and tested it out in a real raid application - aptly the weekly guild ICC25. What I found was interesting; Depending on the fight UP could be a dps increase. It was affected by the type of fight and mechanics involved. For example, on a "stand and kill fight" (like Saurfang, Festergut, BQL, or Marrow) the IMPUP spec was indeed more dps. On a "control or add fight" (like PP, large trash pulls, Sindy, LK, Deathwhisper, or princes) the FP spec was more effective. The reason is simple, the crux of IMPUP is haste while for FP is raw output. On a add fight with FP I could crank up my output (via strength plus the actual damage output modifier) which would, in turn, increase the output on my pestilence disease ticks, blood boils, and death and decay. On a control fight I would have a steady stream of sizable output with all my abilities without too much haste or runelock. On a stand and kill fight the IMPUP spec would create enough runes and runic power to minimize my runelock (it was still there however much lower) and the results would be simply devastating.

As a side note, as we move in to Cata and level toward 85 the way in which gear is itemized will be different than it is now. I understand they have modified some of our current gear to be inline with the new itemization but the fact remains that there are still imbalances. As crazy as this might sound, we have to at least entertain the idea that the itemization we take at 85 may highly affect which presence we use. For example, if we are able to attain massive amounts of strength (compared to haste), FP might be the presence of choice. Inversely, if haste outweighs strength we may have a clear winner with UP. 

As a raiding DK prior to patch 401, I carried two different frost specs - one with IMP Icy Talons and one without. As a raiding DK post 401, I now carry two different unholy  specs - one with IMP UP and one without.

Until we know for sure, I'll be that unholy Death Knight with two dps specs still at the top of the charts.


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