Monday, October 24, 2011

5.0 Preview | Death Knight Talent Tree

As many of you are aware, this year at Blizzcon they once again turned our world upside down in terms of talenting. After the last change (the consolidation of the talent trees) I could not believe they would attempt to modify that system again, let alone this drastically. The sticker shock I first experienced was slightly soothed by some of the new talents (and finding out that some abilities will be base abilities) but at the end of the day it is what it is....a risky move.

I want to go over the options for DK's today and explain some of the new abilities as I understand them. Let it be said that nothing is set in stone and until launch everything is subject to modification. This section could be revised (and it probably will) or it could be removed all together (a lovely pipe dream). Let it also be said I'll be talking about the abilities as I understand them from the Dev panel and the tooltip information. When I get into the beta (did you hear that Blizzard, WHEN oh WHEN) I will be trying them all out, as well as different talenting options, to see if my analysis holds water.

With that hold on to your asses and click the jump!

The first bit of shocker about our talent trees is....they are gone. GONE! This has been replaced with what appears to be a bingo card. Essentially the talent "tree" has been turned horizontally whereas before it was vertical. It would also appear they are (again) trying to simplify the system. This is what we know about the new system thus far;
  • Instead of your talents picking your specialization, you will just pick it at level 10. With that you get abilities that are specific to your specialization, some of which were previously obtained via talenting. 
  • Once you hit level 15 you will get to use your first "talent point". These points go into a tree that is the same for ALL specializations, there will not be separate trees for blood, frost, and unholy. 
  • From here forward you will get to make a choice every 15 levels, totally 6 by the time you hit 90. 
  • Each level of the tree will provide you with three choices, all of which do a very similar function (i.e healing, cc, control, damage, survival) but provide options to the player how to do that function.
  • There is talk of wanting people to be able to adjust the talent tree much like people swap glyphs.
Blizzard stated they are looking to make talent choices fun decisions that create variation but stay away from being 'mandatory'. Now this can be confusing to some players (being many just made their own specs or googled the best spec without thought) so basically put they wanted to avoid the situation where your talent options were dictated by "well this talent is a 4% damage increase so you have to take it" so on and so forth.

They claimed the wanted to avoid cookie cutter builds. The last tree consolidation attempt to do this, however it would appear they feel it was a failure. I could rave on and on regarding my beef with both incantations of the talent system but I think I'll save that for another post. A WHOLE other post.


Tier 1 - Level 15
Roiling Blood - Your Blood Boil ability now triggers Pestilence if it strikes a diseased target.

Corpse Explosion - Detonate the neared disease-ridden corpse to deal shadow damage to enemies within 15 yards, afflicting them with Blood Plague and Frost Fever. An enemy that does while afflicted by one or more of your diseases will receive the disease-ridden effect.

Outbreak (1 min cooldown) - Instantly applies Blood Plague and Frost Fever to the target enemy.

Our first choice is all about diseases and the application of diseases. Roiling Blood is a good option for diseased AOE. If you have to force Blood Boil into your priority to accommodate this, it ends up being less of a boon and more of a nuisance. I don't forsee many Frost players taking this ability however it may find use with Unholy or Blood.

Corpse Explosion was brought back by popular demand and I don't really care. It's a fun ability but limited to situations where you A] have a target that is alive long enough to be fully diseased and B] is going to die before the mobs around it. So that limits it to trash. There is talk of returning to a more AOE style of play which you might think would lend itself to this talent. Not really with the speed packs will be dying. It has limited uses, at best.

Outbreak is basically as it is today. I think for the patch they are lowering the cooldown to 30 seconds, which I think will stay when 5.0 comes. Even with a minute cooldown it's still more useful for Frost players and maybe even to Unholy players as well. IF it goes to a 30 second cooldown it would be the optimal choice hands down for all specs.

Tier 2 - Level 30
Lichbourne (2 min cooldown) - Draw upon unholy energy to become undead for 10 seconds. While undead you are immunie to charm, fear, and sleep effects.

Anti-Magic Zone (2 min cooldown) - Places a large stationary Anti-Magic Zone that reduces spell damage done to party members inside it by 75%. The zone lasts for 10 seconds of until it absorbs X spell damage.

Bone Shield (1 min cooldown) - Surrounds you with a barrier of whirling bones. The shield begins with 6 charges and each damaging attack consumes a charge. While at least 1 charge remains, you take 20% less damage from all sources. Last 5 minutes.

Tier 2 is about survivability. My stance on these talents is simple: anything talent that helps you stay alive (tank or DPS) is a huge boon. The first option is Lichbourne. This talent is not a bad choice for Unholy DK's to combine with some healing from Death Coils. To be honest it's also not a bad choice for DPS DK's in general. The ability to avoid a fear is always a boon for DPS uptime. Depending on how easy it is to swap around talent points, I may keep this on standby for trash or bosses who have a fear / sleep mechanic.

AMZ is the second choice. Back when I was Unholy this was one of my favorite talents. You can't imagine the healers delight when someone would pop this when group AOE was incoming and no healer CD were available. This is an excellent talent WHEN the encounter involves some group AOE (think Chimeron / Majordomo / Beth'tilac) otherwise it's marginally a good talent to have around.

The last talent is Bone Shield! I'm actually very excited about this ability from a DPS standpoint. Here is why - this ability last for 5 minutes, has a 1 minute cooldown, has 6 bones, and reduces damage by 20%. For a DPS player who is only getting hit by the occasional unavoidable mechanic, this essentially means they will always be taking 20% less damage AT ALL TIMES! As long as you take unavoidable damage less than once per 10 seconds you will be taking 20% less damage. This makes us a VERY attractive melee class to bring. It's also very good for tanking, of course. It will not have as high of an uptime as it does for DPS players but the 20% will equate to a higher amount of damage mitigated. In the end Bone Shield is the clear winner for all specs.

Tier 3 - Level 45
Death's Advance - While your unholy runes are both depleted, movement-impairing effects may not reduce you below 75% of normal movement speed.

Chilblains - Victims of your frost fever disease are chilled, reducing movement speed by 50% for 10 seconds and your Chains of Ice immobilizes targets for 3 seconds.

Asphyxiate (1 blood, 1 min cooldown) - Lifts an enemy target off the ground and crushes their throat with dark energy, stunning them for (?) until cancelled. Functions as a silence if the target is immune to stuns. Replaces Strangulate.

Tier 3 is all about movement control. Death's Advance seems to be a great choice for PVP players. Given that you'll want to be keeping runes depleted and cooling down this means a high uptime for Death's Advance. I can see this being the PVP choice for all specs.

Chilblains remains the same as it's current incantation. This is a great choice for any DK looking for passive add control. Provided Howling Blast continues to disease the target I'm sure this will be the choice for Frost players. It's also not bad for Unholy but might not be as good as the last option given the anti-caster nature of Unholy. This is probably also a great choice for tanks who will have diseases up on possible more than one target.

The last choice is Asphyxiate, a new talent. Now the tooltip looks like it might be incomplete. As it currently reads it might last until cancelled. I can't imagine CC like this is permanent, so we'll just assume it has SOME kind of duration. This talent is great for the stun and for the silence. I can see this being attractive to some tanks and some DPS given the situation. Hell it might even be a good situational choice in PVP as well! Therein lies the crux....it looks fun but I think it will be more situational than they hoped for.

Tier 4 - Level 60
Death Pact (40 runic power, 2 min cooldown) - Drains energy from an undead minion, healing the DK for 25% of their maximum health.

Death Siphon - Consumes a death rune to deal shadow damage to an enemy, healing the DK for 75% of the damage dealt.

Vampiric Blood (1 min cooldown) - Temporarily grants the DK 15% of maximum health and increases the amount of health received from healing spells and effects by 25% for 10 seconds. After the effect expires, the health is lost.

Tier 4 is about emergency survival. First up is Death Pact. This operates the same way as the current incantation. This is very situational. I would assume it is the best choice for Unholy players who will have a ghoul out at all times and who may need some fast healing if the SHTF. That isn't to say other players can't benefit from it, specially Blood. For Frost I would shy from this choice as your ghoul is a GREAT source of damage.

The second option is Death Siphon. I like this options for Frost players and maybe some Unholy players. Right now it doesn't have a cooldown or a cost, which means it will have one of those (or maybe both) before it goes live. Either way, I like this option for Frost being able to seamlessly weave some damage in while getting a heal. The only issue I foresee would be if a rune cost is added. That might create a rotational issue with Frost (and Unholy) that could reduce it's benefit.

The last option is Vampiric Blood which is the same as the current live talent. This is probably the best choice for Blood players, as it's a straight up tank cooldown. If you are a threaty dps player like myself you may also take this talent to save you from tasting floor. If Death Siphon gets a cost this will be the choice for Frost.

Tier 5 - Level 75
Blood Tap (1 min cooldown) - Each damaging Death Coil, Frost Strike, or Rune Strike generates a blood charge. Blood Tap consumes 3 blood charges to active a random fully depleted rune as a death rune.

Runic Empowerment - When you land a damaging Death Coil, Frost Strike, or Rune Strike, you have a 45% chance to active a random fully depleted rune.

Runic Corruption - When you land a damaging Death Coil, Frost Strike, or Rune Strike, your rune regeneration rate is increased by 100% for 3 seconds.

Tier 5 is all about resource management. The first is Blood Tap. This mechanic has a fundamental shift from it's current incantation. Now when you bleed Runic Power you will stack up a third resource to be used to activate Blood Tap. I still see this being hugely beneficial for Blood players. Will it work for DPS players? Sure it will, but probably not as well.

Runic Empowerment is the second option. You basically get a 2 in 1 change to refresh a rune when you bleed Runic Power. It seems like a fun time but for PVE players it might be a bit too RNG to math out in the long run. In PVP where diseases are being dispelled and you never know what you need to cast on the next global, this randomization might just be what is needed to compete.

The last option is Runic Corruption. When you bleed Runic Power you increase your rune regen rate by 100%. Given the amount of Death Coils, Frost Strikes, or Rune Strikes that are used, this might be the end all be all for every DK. I know for Frost players where haste is the most attractive secondary stat (and also helps with runic regeneration) this should be the option to choose. I don't foresee this being bad for any class that wants to leave RNG and an active action out of their resource management.

Tier 6 - Level 90
Gorefiend's Grasp (1 min cooldown) - Shadowy tendrils coil around all enemies within 20 yards of a target (hostile or friendly), dealing shadow damage and pulling them to the target location.

Remorseless Winter (1 min cooldown) - Surrounds the death Knight with a swirling tempest of frigid air, dealing frost damage to enemies within 10 yards, every 1 second for 8 seconds. Each time Remorseless Winter deals damage, it reduces enemy movement speed by 15%, stacking up to 5 times. Upon receiving a fifth application, an enemy will be stunned for 6 seconds.

Desecrated Ground (2 min cooldown) - Corrupts the ground in a 8 yard radius beneath the DK, dealing shadow damage every 1 second for 10 seconds. While standing in this corruption, the DK is immune to crowd control effects.

The last tier is all about crowd control. It also includes our 3 new abilities at level 90. The first is Gorefiend's Grasp. This is basically an AOE Death Grip. For tanks....this....is....awesome! Death Grip is a DK only feature...and now we can do this at the AOE scale? Not to mention we can target a friendly Priest.....er I mean other tank as the pull point? WAIT it deals shadow damage too? Holy shit. This is like the prodigy child that goes to MIT on a full ride or becomes a tennis star...you know the ones....retirement plan! This actually will be very helpful for tanks. Imagine if your tanking partner was on add duty, you could help him out 10 fold with this ability. It's also not limited to tanks so a helpful DPS player would assist the tank as well. I'll be honest, this will be the Blood choice hands down.

Secondly we have Remorseless Winter. The rumor is this replaces Hungering Cold. That I am totally okay with because the cast time on Hungering is stupid....and is....stupid. YEAH. Alright, now that I have that out of my system - Remorseless is a great way to deal some pretty nice AE damage and potentially freeze a stray mob after a few seconds. I think that is the only application of the stun to be honest. However the movement reduction and the damage seem to make this an excellant choice for Frost and Unholy players.

The last option is Desecrated Ground. While the damage component is not bad for any DPS player, the real boon lies within the second part. While standing on the zone you are immune to CC. The Wowhead tooltip specifies the DK but at Blizzcon it showed that anyone in the GROUP would be immune, much like the rogue smoke bomb. Either way this is a clear winner for PVP players. The other talents are helpful in PVP and might prove to surprise teams with a gimmick but in reality this choice yields the best result.

Well fellow DK brethren, that is about it for our new talents! Will these change as things develop? I can promise that. I'll do my best to keep it up to date and with the most relevant info.

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