Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stat changes in Cataclysm: Death Knight Style

Today represents the last in our tri-partite look at the Cataclysmic stat changes.  As promised, Death Knights are the topic of today's discussion.  Again, I'd like to make sure to note that like everything else Blizzard does, this is subject to change.  With that in mind, we'll be looking more at the general directions they want to go.

For DPS Death Knights
Being a bi-functional class (tanking and DPS), we have to look at the changes in two ways.  Let's check out the DPS stats changes first.  Here's the old stat priority for Frost DPS:

Hit (until cap) > Str > Expertise (until cap) > Crit > Haste

The only two stats that are going away that we had some moderate use for are Attack Power and Armor Penetration, but as you can see, those weren't really in our top five.  In fact, they will each now convert into one of those or stamina, so it's all good.  As long as you're wearing plate, you should be well itemized.  The non-plate items will be tailored towards other classes, and we will probably see less overlap, making those items not as good for us.  As a plate, melee DPS, we should just be prepared to see more stamina and more strength.  Nothing big here.

They've also said that they want to make Haste more useful for melee classes.  In their words: "Our intention is for Haste to let you “do stuff” more often."  As vague as that is, the key idea here is that we'll have two types of stats.  Several to make things more powerful, but one to be able to do things more often.  This sets the stage for some interesting trade-off discussions and calculations.  Is it better to hit a lot faster or a lot harder?  As always, I'm sure we'll be aiming for some sort of "sweet spot" in the middle.

For Tanking Death Knights
Where the DPS changes are fairly minor, the tanking changes will be pretty major.  Fuu touched on some of them for Pallies yesterday and a lot of what she said applies to us as well.

The big change sounds like it's going to be to Defense.  Before, any class of tank with the exception of Druids had to really pay attention to the Defense stat in order to get to the accepted "cap" that makes you un-critable.  As mentioned, this is all going away.  For Death Knights, it appears that their intention is to have us become un-critable upon entering Frost Presence.  Since we should be in this presence when we're tanking anyways, it will really make life easier. 

Existing Defense will be converted in other useful stats like Dodge, Parry, and Block.  The hairy part here is that we can't really anticipate which pieces will be intended for which class.  As a DK, obviously block means nothing to us, so any pieces that have Defense convert to block are probably not going to be as good.  As far as this goes, there's no choice but to wait and see.  I would imagine that Blizz has already thought this out, and plans to use more generic stats (like Dodge or Stamina) for any pieces that could be used by multiple tank classes.  If a piece already has block on it, then chances are those are the pieces that may get some defense changed to block.

A second, more minor change is going to be made to Parry.  It's interesting that they are talking about making Parry affect two concurrent attacks.  I'm not sure if the percentages will all come out as they posted, but the general direction is that each Dodge, Parry, and Block will provide different (but more similar) forms of mitigation.  Parry might halve two attacks, where dodge is a complete avoidance, and block is a steadier but smaller percentage.   If I had to guess, I'd say they make the simple trade-off for these stats that the higher the percentage of avoidance, the less likely you are to avoid.  So while it might be harder to Dodge, you would miss 100% of that attack.  Parry would be in the middle, with block being the most stable.  Either way, I anticipate them to balance these stats so they can be similarly valued.

A small side note to the Parry change is that the whole Parry-Haste discussion will no longer be valid since parries will no longer reset the swing timers for mobs.  Thus, there really won't be a downside to Parry anymore which is great since we're a Parry heavy tank class.  If anything, this may cause us to want more Parry, though Dodge will still be a big stack for us (and block useless).

For tanks, there really isn't a straight stat priority as it's more about balancing your needs.  Nearly all of what I laid out in my DW tanking primer still holds, so I'd encourage you to look there if you want more information.

Filed Under Misc
Let's take another quick look at Reforging and Mastery.

Again, Reforging is what Blizzard is calling their general directive whereby they'd like to allow players to tweak the "support" stats on gear.  For DKs and tanks especially, the ability to muck around with some stats is a good thing.  I really don't think Blizz is "dumbing down" anything, since this ability alone would make for some very heavy theory-crafting.  Think about it.  I'm sure there will be some trade-off to moving these stats around, and the level of control will allow people to aim for the "perfect" stat combination (if such a thing exists).  Instead of just having to make do with what's out there and create "best in slot" lists, people will need to look more at how stats interact and what sort of balance you really want.  For DK tanks, this will probably be a battle between Dodge and Parry.  For DPS, it'll be about Haste and Strength.

Mastery is rumored to be a new stat that will "allow players to become better at whatever makes their chosen talent tree cool or unique."  You can interpret that as well as I can.  For a DK, maybe we'll have an extra loud Horn of Winter or increase the cries of "OP".  Maybe it would be super useful like allowing our spells to hit at the same hit levels as our melee (so there aren't two "caps").  Who knows?  They indicate that it'll be some way tied to talents, so we could see things where you get a simple bonus multiplier based on your "mastery" level.  I would guess this stat might be hard to come by and not malleable like "supporting" stats.

So what should you do now?  
As I said in the Warlock version, we don't know when, exactly, these changes are going to roll out.  They may be in a patch next week (remotely pos-si-ble, but unlikely), they could be several weeks before the expansion (likely, since it would follow the trend set by TBC), or they could be with Cataclysm proper (perhaps equally likely, though I would think to do the tweaking stuff "in preparation for" the expansion).  There is no time line.  When the changes are actually release (and what they are in their final form) definitely dictates how much it affects us.  If there is considerable time stuck at level 80, you will most likely be using "old" gear.  If not, then what to do now matters less. 

With that being said, I want to have in my mind what I should do if the changes are coming sooner rather than later.  The answer there: for DPS there's really nothing; for tanks, try to be aware of any gear that seems intended for Paladins and Warriors.  In other words, avoid block.  Also, for both versions of DKs, we'll have to pay attention to what they do with our weapons, since even now the stats can be a little weird for dual wielders like myself.  I think we should see a bigger separation between what, say, Rogues use for DPS and what DW DKs use.  The days of wanting to roll on mail or leather for the stats is probably over (if you ever did it in the first place).  It's probably a safe assumption that your class's tier gear will be re-itemized with your class in mind, but that is probably the only gear claim you could safely anticipate.  Other pieces may surprise you with who Blizz actually intended them for.

Besides that?  We continue to play the waiting game.


  1. I think the issue of “Parry Haste” has become somewhat misunderstood, here and on other blogs/forums I have read. As I understand it, the mob or player who does the parrying gains the haste, in that their next melee swing is quicker.

    So if you parry the boss attack, the boss does not gain “parry haste” (but you do, so you gain a little bit of dps/threat). So you don’t need to worry about stacking parry or being a “parry based class”.

    However, if the boss parries one of your melee attacks, then the boss does gain parry haste. This is why expertise has good value for tanks as it reduces the amount that bosses will parry your attacks, thus boosting your threat and reducing incoming damage (a bit) by preventing the boss gaining so much “parry haste”. You will still get some boss parries though, unless you have very high expertise.

    This is also why melee dps should never attack the boss from the front as by attacking from the front they have a chance for the boss to parry their attacks and giving the boss “parry haste”, thus causing more damage to the tank. Also, they will do less dps this way as they will lose a lot of hits to boss parries.

  2. either way, I want it gone from my sight :)

    The biggest thing I would like to worry about are:

    Can I take the hits, can I keep threat for the DPS to do their jobs, positioning the Boss/mobs in a way that it does little harm to others & can it/they be DPS'ed properly. Not if a Lazy DPS decides the he doesn't want to stare at the bosses ass anymore so he comes to hang out with me. Will he kill me because he likes to be in my personal space...

    Parry Haste was stupid. :P

  3. @Luke

    As you explain it, you are completely correct. I wrote a whole bunch more about it here actually:

    I didn't mean to imply that stacking Parry had anything to do with it, rather that if they are changing the mechanic of Parry, that I would assume it works both ways (for us and against us)... Thus, any sort of Parry-Haste consideration goes away neatly. You unintentionally bring up a good point though: what if they're only changing the way the mechanic works for us (and bosses will still work the same)? After all, there is no guarantee. If that were the case, I go over the math in the article I linked above about why, even at it's worst, Parry-Haste is pretty much insignificant for all but the hardest-core group of players.

  4. I agree, Parry Haste was/is stupid, especially with the bad melee dps factor.

    The only downside is removing it will reduce tank dps and threat a little bit as you will no longer get the parry haste yourself. This will ofc have a bigger effect for high parry % class like death knights. However no tank does much threat or dps by autoattack melee anyway, so I would say the loss of an occasional haste buff to white melee is no big deal.

    I love the blog btw, even if my only posts so far have been a bit "nit-picky"! Apologies

  5. Agreed, and "nit-picky" is good when I don't write clearly enough. It encourages me to be better :-).