Saturday, January 17, 2009

Comparing Playstyles: Dual Wield to Unholy DPS

I've been Dual Wield for a few days now and ran several heroics and three raids with the setup. Until Patch 3.08 hits there is a clear DPS advantage to Dual Wielding, but it loses the flexibility to tank that I had in my Unholy DPS/Tank spec here.

Due to the amount of material in this post I'll break it into sections.

Section 1) Frost Talent Review
Section 2) DW Rotation and Damage Breakdown
Section 3) Unholy Review
Section 4) Comparing the two

Section 1) Frost Talent Review

Improved Icy Touch through Improved Icy Talons increases the damage your IT does, slows the mobs attack speed, and increases the raids haste. This is all good.

Glacial Rot and Black Ice increase your frost damage significantly which is a large portion of your output with this spec.

Nerves of Cold Steel is imperative for all dual wield builds. Without this, you would miss all the time. As it is, you need to stack way more hit that using a 2 hander.

Chill of the grave boosts your RP production. In fact I have found mine is so high that I waste RP. Between Gargoyle cooldowns I generate more RP between Howling Blasts and Icy Touches I can't burn it all with Death Coils between rune cooldowns.

Killing Machine is the talent that is causing all the commotion regarding this spec. Even with a slow MH/ fast OH, I get this to proc incredibly frequently. That allows my Howling blasts to hit incredibly hard all the time.

Whenever Rime procs your Howling Blast is rune free, which means you can get two more Icy Touches in your rotation.

Finally Howling Blast is a short range AOE centered on you that can hit for large amounts of damage in the right circumstances.

Section 2) DW Rotation and Damage Breakdown

The trick to DW damage is to ensure your Frost Fever is on every mob you fight and ensure a Killing Machine Proc before you use Howling Blast.

On single targets your rotation is:



This includes the standard runic power dumps. On the second half PS does less damage than IT but you use it to give Killing Machine a chance to proc before Howling blast.

On Multi targets your rotation is:

IT, PS, Pest, BS, HB


Like before you will use runic power dumps and you want to keep HB in the same part of the rune rotation for efficiency.

In both cases whenever Rime procs a free HB, use it then resume your rotation.

To review the output, I pulled a recount breakdown of my damage from a Heroic UK run last night.

As you can see Howling Blast was my primary source of damage. Even better with all the talents to buff its crit rate it crit for 62% of the time. Crit damage has a high degree of variance depending on whether the mob has frost fever, talent procs, racials, and item procs. Even non crit blasts have a large range but over all this ability hits hard. In fact on AOE pulls I would steal aggro on secondary targets whenever this crit on the first pass.

Melee is the second largest source of damage because you are hitting constantly with two weapons. I had fallen crusader on my slow main hand and razor ice on my fast off hand.

Icy touch and its frost fever pack a punch as well. This is why you take virulence in the Unholy tree to increase your hit with these.

Blood Caked Blade from Unholy also benefits nicely from Dual Wield and contributed over 5% of my output.

Section 3) Unholy Review

Since the DW spec is DPS only I will not compare tanking rotations in this post.

The single target rotation for Unholy is:



For your runic power dump on the first part you will use Unholy Blight and then use Death coil to dump power after the second rotation.

On multi targets your Unholy rotation is:

IT, PS, Pest, BB, SS


Like the single target you will dump RP on the first pass using Unholy Blight.

Section 4) Comparing the two

Unholy has cleaner rotations than DW since you don't have to deal with Rime Procs. I also have noticed I have a tendency to wait casting Howling Blast trying to score a KM proc for some big numbers. I realize that is not-optimal and I try to avoid it, but I am sure we all will have that issue. That doesn't detract from DW's current superiority in DPS.

You also need to Glyph differently between the two specs.

For Unholy, you want Icy Touch to get more RP to cast UB on the first pass, Bone Shield for more uptime on your shield to lower AOE damage taken plus some DPS benefit, and Scourge Strike to greatly increase its damage.

For DW Glyphs I'm not as confident that there are must have glyphs. However, I can assure you that Icy Touch is bad, and bone shield and scourge strike glyphs are worthless. Glyph of the Ghoul increases an important source of DPS and the plague strike glyph limits the suckage that is PS a little bit. I also took IceBound Fort so I can use it when I'm RP starved.

After the patch the DPS difference between the two play styles will be reduced. I don't believe DW will go the way of the dodo but there will be more parity. They are both fun ways of cranking some damage and currently DW allows you to flex your epeen. I will most likely go back to my Unholy tank/dps spec after the patch due to the flexibility it provides.

At some point I will spec frost tanking and blood dps just so I can be less ignorant about those as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deathtard Spotted... and its not Me

/rant on

So I had a little over an hour to kill today and already did the daily on Omenscourge. Chaos needs a tree on occasion so I log my druid for some UK healing action.

We score two mages and a shadow preist and find a DK to tank. We'd been looking for a tank for 20 min so we take him.

The spec should have been a red flag. 35/0/26 All over the place too. Duel wield without any beneficial talents you bet.

Now I'm generally a nice guy. I know hes not gear nor specced to tank but played well we should be able to survive.

Frost presence, check, or so I'm told. I wish there was a way to see that on other toons.

Rotation, dnd, it, ps, pest. Check. Well not exactly. The dnd would come up on occasion against a single mob. No it, no ps, no pest.

Melee 51% of damage, followed by Death Coil? You serious? How does this guy solo quests?

Any guesses who had aggro every pull? If it wasn't me it was the two mages getting it from sheeping. Remember sheeping?

We even marked kill orders and the guy would stand there and not do anything.

Maybe he was nervous. Maybe he'd never tanked before. Maybe he could have listened to the shadow preist about kill orders, or the mages about CC, or me about what abilities to use when.

I'm the first to admit, I can be wrong, I'm not perfect, and I make mistakes. But I try to learn from them.

I politely excused myself from the run claiming I wasn't up to the healing challenge of UK on my resto druid.

Are 10 Mans Harder than 25's?

So I've pugged Naxx a few times as Heroic raids and I've run the Arachnid quarter twice now as a guild in Normal. My gut is telling me that the 10's are harder to execute than the 25's.

From my raid leading days in a larger guild, I will say organizing 25 people can be a nightmare and just fielding a team is hard by itself.

But I just can't get past the feeling that every time I pugged a 25 we could down whatever boss was in front of us. But on the 10's not so much.

Now if we were able to field a group of 10 where everyone was properly geared and not playing an offspec I think we would be doing much better than we currently are. Our two tanks are great, we have 4 solid DPS, and one fantastic healer. That's still 3 people short.

I'm not trying to dig on my guildies, and don't think that I am. I understand RL can set you back and right now a few of us are playing catch up in game. My point is, in a heroic raid you can afford to have a few people not up to the challenge. In a normal raid you can't.

I'm also not the only one who feels this way. Sydera over at World of Matticus wrote about this topic and generated a ton of debate.

So I've posted a second poll to see what y'alls thoughts are.

Non-Optimal Itemization

Like my new DPS gloves?

I really am impressed with the +36 Int on them, so valuable to a Death Knight. Perhaps, it will boost the intelligence of my Ghoul and allow him to jump off ledges.

Then again, probably not.

So these dropped off Faerlina last night. We don't have any hunters in the guild and the enhance shaman already had better. For DPS, I had an old pair of blues that were itemized towards defense. So even though these don't have any strength they did have a red socket, loads of AP, and lots of hit and crit goodness.

Now they are gemmed up, chanted, and ready for ridicule.

I'll do a write up on the modified DW spec I have a bit later, but for the night my overall DPS was up by about 600 using it. I can't wait till dual specs are implemented so I can have a dedicated DPS spec and a dedicated Tank spec. I may just bite the bullet and respec daily as needed.

Our run last night didn't live up to expectations. We are still having healing issues iwith Max. The allied Shaman that healed for us last week came, but insisted on being DPS, which forced one of our shaman to respec resto. Net total we lost 300 dps and 600 hps in the trade. To make it worse the non guildy bitched about healing on Maxenna as the reason for our wipes. We called the raid early.

We did get one of our missing two guildies back in action and have a mage again. Now as soon as his wife is back on her feet we will have a holy priest. Though these two have been out so much they need lots of gear, but I know we are willing to help them with that.

While frustrating, I know these issues are minor gamewise and easily solved. The alternative is go back to a big guild and fight for spots, deal with loot drama, cliques, and politics.

No thanks. I like my friends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Would you spend 190g for 400 DPS?

Sure you would.

Since our planned Naxx run tonight already has 2 prot warriors I'll be on DPS duty for the night. So why not do it up right? 3.08 hasn't hit and DW is the king of DPS.

Specifically, I used Skeleton Jack's 0/30/41 spec to give it a go. I'm a little light on AP and went out and bought 2 fangs of truth from Wyrmrest and also swapped out my glyphs.

Last night in H HoL I pushed around 1950 DPS for the night and peaked on Volhkan at 2900. Woot!!! Not bad for a semi-casual.

So was it worth it? You be the judge. 3362 DPS on the Fleshcrafter. That's a hell of an increase over Volhkan, especially since I didn't aoe adds like I did with his. For the entire run I just missed 2400.

Needless to say, I plan on staying this way for DPS duty tonight.

There's not a lot of drops in CoT for a DK, but we did score the timed event and I won the roll. Now I fly first class. Boo ya!

Back to Naxx

Well we never were able to get back into Naxx last week to finish off Maxenna. Tonight we will be going back in. In the week since, several of us have scored some significant upgrades which should bring all 6 DPS over 1,500 and 3 or 4 of us should easily clear 2,000.

Our Heals have also scored some better gear plus we all know the first fights now and should hopefully organize quicker.

Assuming Horde holds WG when we start we will try to score a couple quick gear upgrades again before heading into Naxx.

For Anub, the plan is simple. Heal through the locust swarms with all melee pulling out and going for the adds. The add tank will wait by the back curtain to pick them up quickly, while the boss will be tanked by the entrance.

Grand Widow will be tanked in the midde of her adds so we can easily change targets to stop her enrages. This was the technique that got us the kill on our third try last week. I will also use my AMZ twice during the fight so we don't have to reposition her due to the rain of fire.

Maxx will continue to be tanked by the little altar and no matter what happens I will not gimp my dps so I can pick her up and tank her should the MT go down. We still only have 3 ranged DPS so the pressure will be on them to shoot down whoever is stuck on the walls.

After Maxx, we will make a decision on whether to go after Noth or Patch depending on our DPS for the night. In order to beat the enrage time we will need to do approximately 12,000 raid DPS. After accounting for the two tanks, the remainders need to hit about 1700 on average to get this done. It's gonna be tight for us right now.

Ghostcrawler on Single Target Threat

Click the blues.

Old McDonald had a farm

And on his farm he had some freaking cloth pants that dropped last time we downed Loken.

So we went back in to try and farm loken for my new Axe and got the same exact spell power cloth pants that dropped last time. Chaos Brewing now has a Boomkin and Holy Pally wearing the same pants. Coincidence. Meh, maybe.

There are some who question whether the loot tables are truly random. Skeleton Jack talks about it in this post. As someone who works with statistics in very large datasets all day long I disagree.

Warning Statistics Lesson Incoming!!!!!!

(I'll spare the actual math and only deal with the concepts, cuz I'm lazy like that)

Let's get 5 people to toss a coin 5 times each. We can calculate the probability that one of them will get heads all 5 times.

Now let's get 50 people to toss a coin 5 times each. We should have a higher probability that one person will get heads all 5 times.

Now let's expand that out to 5 million people tossing a coin 5 times. I'd wager a lot more than you think will hit heads 5 times in a row.

I'd also wager that it was someone other than you.

This is the same phenomena you see in the lottery. Eventually someone always wins against astronomical odds. But the chance that someone is you is astronomical.

Now consider how many times a player has defeated Heroic Loken twice. There are 11 million players in Wrath right now. Well over a million have level 80 toons. There is a large base for this to occur.

I just got unlucky so far.

Two things about the loot table to consider.

I saw a Blizzard post a year or so ago stating that they seed their loot tables when a mob spawns with a time/date stamp. The second the first person zones into an instance, the loot tables are determined. They claimed class composition had nothing to do with the seeds.

What we don't know a priori are whether the tables are weighted to favor some drops over others and whether there are any factors that can modify the weights.

For example, if there are 5 items in a loot table they should each show up 20% of the time if they are not weighted. I would assume Blizzard does weight the loot tables so some items would show up more frequently than 20% of the time while others less frequently. I would also assume they change their weightings periodically.

OK, so back to Loken, he still didn't drop my Axe so I will have to keep going back. Maybe Maxenna will give me a wraith spear tonight since the RNG doesn't appear to love me anymore.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Off Topic: Chaos Brewing is Hiring

Due to RL issues amongst some of our friends we need a couple more players to be able to consistently field a 10 man group.

Here's the background. As a guild we have been running together for over a year now, though we previously existed in a couple different larger guilds in BC where we casually ran some 25 man content including most of SSC and parts of TK.

As a group, we are mature. We have one couple in their early 20's, but most of us are in our 30's, married, and with kids. Given that, we don't raid often. Specifically 2 nights a week, but we do take our raiding seriously and we plan on clearing all the content in the 10man versions.

For those of us who can play more frequently we encourage filling slots in other guilds heroic raids whenever you can. We will never say you can't go, we just ask that you roll with us when we are going.

Our raids typically start at 8:30 CST.

We are over balanced with melee, 2 prot warriors, 1 DK, 1 rouge, and an Enh Shammy. What we really need is a healer or two and another ranged DPS. That does not mean we won't take another melee character.

At this stage we aren't too concerned about gear since we can run plenty of heroics to catch you up. What we do care about is someone who genuinely wants to progress in 10 man content and can commit to 2 nights a week and not feel held back by our slower schedule.

Most importantly, we want players who we will still consider friends a year from now.

How to apply: Simple respond to this thread. Or roll a level 1 alt on Sen'jin horde and try to catch me online between 3:30 and 5 CST weekday afternoons. You can also /who Chaos to talk to any one of us.

Rethinking the new Sigils

Awhile back I talked about the new sigils that are coming in patch 3.08.

At the time I wasn't all that impressed witht he Sigil of the Unfaltering Knight for tanking. I'm starting to change my mind a little bit, but not in the way you're expecting.

First off, it appears that the proc on Icy Touch will not go away. But it is 100% proc rate with a 30 second duration. Since I've glyphed my Scourge Strike and have epidemic, I typically don't cast Icy Touch that often and I could easily lose the benefit of this sigil.

That's OK. I'm defense capped without it.

Here's what I'm thinking. I'm still running with the starter quest sigils which just doesn't do much for me while tanking. I can replace it with this sigil. Before diminishing returns this should add 10.78 defense skill on top of the 541 I already have.

10.78 defense skill should translate to .43% dodge, .43% parry, and .43% miss before DR. That's an extra 1.3% avoidance on command. Therefore in an emergency you can recast Icy Touch even when you don't need to reapply the disease, grab some extra avoidance, and if its really ugly pop IBF at the same time with 550 defense so buff its mitigation even more.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Threat Generation, Single Target vs. AOE

There seems to be a common theme on various forums regarding our threat generation. It's not enough.

I beg to differ.

Within reason, we can generate sufficient threat regardless of fight to cover AOE and Healing aggro. Almost all the issues are solved by a little common sense and good raid discipline.

First) if the DPS out gears you by a long shot and they pull aggro, they need to back off and give you more time.

Second) if DPS pulls aggro on an AOE tanked fight, they most likely are not focus firing on the right mob.

Third) if Healers pull aggro, you either screwed up royally at the start, or were not positioned to pick up an add.

Basic rules of threat generation for the DK tank.

If you are not in frost presence you will not hold threat. This isn't such a big deal since you will be dead anyway. Dead toons don't generate threat either.

Before the pull, know whether it will be AOE or single target.

If it's AOE use the basic AOE rotation found in my tanking primer. Start with DnD, IT, PS, Pest, and Unholy Blight. As soon as you get your first blood rune back, blood boil. At this point Pestilence, Blood Boil, and Unholy Blight should give sufficient threat for the remainder of the fight. If you find you still need more, save a few runes and Death and Decay again.

On single targets, start with IT and PS to get your diseases working as soon as possible. You will also want to Blood Strike twice to proc Blade Barrier. Please note, BS does not provide threat as quickly as Scourge Strike. Keep your diseases up, Scourge Strike and Rune Strike whenever you have the runes or it procs. Also if you need all the threat you can get, only use runic power on UB, Death Coils, and RS. Don't waste your RP on Gargoyles since you do not get threat from their damage.

Regardless of Single Target or AOE, the mechanics of our threat generation dictate we need a little bit of time before DPS can lay into the pack. Our initial threat builds in layers as the first hits or ticks of DnD take place. Then the disease damage starts to pile on. After that you start adding in threat from RP dumps.

The point is, our threat is not front loaded. DPS needs to give us a couple seconds before trying to hit a home run.

On AOE pulls, its a good idea to mark a kill order. I actually only use Skull and have it key bound so I can easily apply it to whichever target I'm focusing on. (I don't have it macrod to my strikes since sometimes I will tab target another mob to lay some extra hurt on it.) So long as DPS follows the skull they will always focus fire the target I'm hitting the hardest.

If your healer is getting aggro I assume its due to adds coming into the fight where you are not positioned to pick them up. The other option is you suck so bad healing out threats your attacks. Positioning problems can be solved on most fights quite easily. The other quick solution is to drop a Death and Decay where your healer is standing to send the adds your direction.

With my level of gear I can easily push 3500 TPS. In the unlikely event I'm running with DPS that can consistently go over that, I know I'm out geared and will ask them to give me a bigger head start.

People need to remember, as tanks we have to balance mitigation to keep the healers happy and threat generation to keep DPS happy. At the end of the day, everyone needs to know how much threat they can produce relative to yours to kill the boss and not get one-shot.

Taking Loken Down in Style

After suffering 2500ms all day Saturday I actually had playable lag yesterday. The better half had a lot of shopping to do, so I had some time to play.

Three Heroics, tanked two, and DPS'd the third all as guild runs. Yay.

Knocking out UK for the daily was pretty easy as was Nexus. To end the day I talked everyone into Halls of Lightning because I want a new Axe to play with.

Now I've heard the horror stories of this place on Heroic. We all have. One of our Prot Warriors wanted to come so that meant I'd DPS. Sure no problem.

So we had a Prot Warrior, Combat Rogue, Elemental Shaman, Unholy DK, and Holy Pally. Early trash goes fine. First boss drops no problem.

On the elemental gauntlet on the way to Volkhan, I topped 4000 DPS and lol'd. We dropped Volkhan so fast we got an achievement for it.

Ionar, Cake.

The little spinning dwarves, chewed up my ghoul but that was about it.

That leaves Loken. At one time the baddest Heroic in the game.

If you use a gargolye to help DPS, don't bother. He dies inside of 10 seconds.

Bastard dropped so fast he didn't know what hit him.

And I didn't get my Axe. Though I did pick up the Planetary Helm which is a DPS upgrade over the helm I was using for tanking and dps. I needed the hit so it's all good. We can farm this guy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Another nerf, but shouldn't be too bad for PVE

Virulence provides additional resistances for ebon plague. Off the top of my head I can't think of any PVE fight where this might be an issue.

Given all the changes I would not be surprised to see 3.08 delayed another week or two. Now that Blizz has access to decent amounts of real data of PVE and PvP play at the new end game they are able to put more research into balancing everyone.

This does not mean I like taking the nerf bat upside the head, then again its all part of the game and how we adapt will impact our own sense of fun.

Players who are truly interested in learning and playing the class will still find plenty of ways to have fun.

I know I still learn stuff about our class daily and 3.08 will force us all to adapt.

I'll close this by guaranteeing, that no matter what happens I am committed to my DK throughout Wrath and committed to seeing as much content as I can given my 2 nights a week to raid. And I will continue to post my thoughts on what works and what doesn't.