The State of Talents, Part 2

As promised, today’s post will have a more specific review of each talent tier. Here goes!

Tier 56
GC has already stated that the intent of this tier is to save runes (not specifically stating “during disease application”, naturally)- save a rune for Pestilence with a Blood Boil, save 3 runes with Unholy Blight.
So where does Plague Leech come into this mixture? It doesn’t save runes, it generates them by consuming the diseases. It’s certainly a different direction, but since it generates Death Runes (and we’ve lost our old Blood Tap) it’s one of the items that we were stating in Beta would be a direct increase to DPS- consume diseases when they’re about to fall off, Outbreak and fire another Scourge Strike or Heart Strike or maybe an Obliterate. It essentially is the old Blood Tap in this way, just without an HP cost.
My personal belief is that each talent was written with one spec in mind but considered still viable for the other two: Roiling Blood’s connection to Blood is obvious, and Unholy Blight is named after an old ability Unholy had. Frost, on the other hand, has (an occasionally free or otherwise rotational) Howling Blast and doesn’t care about Frost Fever application, nor does it care for Pestilence or Blood Boil as it always has Death Runes; all it needs is a means of casting and spreading Blood Plague, so the solution to add a one-rune generator would have been a perfect solution.
Had it been restricted to that Plague Strike.
What really made this talent a problem in Beta was that our execute ability, Soul Reaper, originally consumed a Death Rune to cast, making this talent and Blood Tap absolute necessities to maximize Soul Reaper’s uptime. Thankfully the change to spec-specific runes and boosts to disease damage have reduced this craving considerably, as Plague Leech is considered to this day to be our most boring talent choice.

Tier 57
This tier is one of our more interesting tiers, filling a theme that can only be stated as “survival”. Lichborne is a talent that is widely used in PVP to break a variety of crowd control effects (Warlocks’ Fear, Howl of Terror and Seduction; Priests’ Mind Control; Hunters’ Wyvern Sting, etc) allowing one to save their trinket for something truly damaging, and it’s used in PVE as an additional healing spell. Purgatory is our version of “Cheat Death”, though its short duration and long cooldown pins it as the weakest “Cheat Death” mechanic in the game, and requires a healer to keep a hawk eye on you. Many DKs have lamented that if it just lasted a little longer, they’d probably consider it worth taking. Personally, I think a little immunity to damage right after it wears off wouldn’t go amiss either, since being healed up to 10 HP still means you’ve only got 10 HP.
However, if someone asked me to point at the talent that least belongs in this tier, I wouldn’t pick either of those two.
It’s important to keep in mind for this tier, that every tanking spec EXCEPT for Blood brings at least one raid-wide survival CD- Paladins have Devotion Aura, Druids have Stampeding Roar and Tranquility, Monks have Zen Meditation and Avert Harm, Warriors have Rallying Cry and the Banners on top of a whole talent tier dedicated to raid survival…
Blood has Blood Worms, but also has no control over when they activate or when they burst, which makes them rather useless if they pop when the raid is mostly capped out. We have Raise Ally certainly, but that saves one healer or tank once per encounter (making it about equal to a Paladin’s Hand spells and of course Druid’s Rebirth, proving Blood still brings the least utility). As far as mitigation though? All we have is Anti-Magic Zone.
I’m not saying that AMZ doesn’t belong in the tier because it’s flawed in any way, just that it should be baseline as Blood DKs won’t have it on hand a majority of the time.

Tier 58
We now return to the tier that is probably one of the most conceptually confusing in our arsenal.
Personally, I would have labeled this tier as nothing short of PVP gimmicks, but I’ve been told in the past to consider it our version of a gap-closer tier. Alright. So how often do you waste an interrupt to stop a target long enough to close a 20-30 yard gap? How often do you Chains of Ice the raid boss in the hopes you can make it to him while the tank’s kiting him?
A gap-closer tier, it is not.
It does contain the only reliable gap-closer we have- barring Death Grip, of course, but that just brings me back to the use of “reliable”, as Death Grip will just as often be shrugged off by targets. Glyph of Resilient Grip mitigates this, but only if the target is Immune to both the pull effect (not Resisted, not Deflected, not Reflected) and the taunt.
Death’s Advance is the talent in this tier with the most versatility and mileage in PVE, primarily because of the above reasons. As far as straight-up gap-closers are concerned it’s still fairly weak- Paladins and Rogues get as high as 70%- but if you add on the fact that it stacks with Unholy Presence and gives resistance to slow effects, it makes up for it little by little.
Chilblains still has its uses for kiting, but really only if you’re a Frost DK and can spread Frost Fever at a whim. I’ll grant that Blood and Unholy have Pestilence, Unholy Blight and Roiling Blood, but these all require you to be in melee range of your target, which defeats the purposes of slowing the target down while kiting.
I’d consider Asphyxiate’s stun the weakest PVE talent in this tier, but it does give you an extra free interrupt every minute, so it’s at least as good as Chilblains.
My one wish for this tier? Clear up its intent. As I said, it’s neither a Crowd-control tier nor a Gap-closer tier. Borrow a page from the Paladin’s book: take Death’s Advance and make it baseline or put it in another tier, then give us a 60-second Fear or Incapacitate or something as our third option.

Tier 60
Our self-healing tier is one of… unusual circumstances, if only because it’s hard to put its problems into words.
Let’s use Death Pact as our measuring stick for this tier. Free, burst-healing CD that matches up with Raise Dead but can still be used to drain from Army of the Dead or Unholy’s Gargoyle, having no bearing on damage. Remember what I said back in Tier 56 about talents being written for one spec in mind? Well, Death Pact is certainly one that screams Unholy.
The other two?
Conversion consumes Runic Power to heal you over time. It’s a lot like a Rogue’s Recuperate, except that you can keep generating RP to keep it up. So what’s the catch? Frost Presence, Scent of Blood and Anti-Magic Shell don’t work while it’s active. It’s one of those limitations that they say is specifically so it doesn’t favor one spec over the others, though the concept of something that devours Runic Power already violates that belief, as anyone who’s played a DK knows that Frost generally prefers this style of ability and can still use Frost Presence to quickly cap off RP before executing Conversion. The current limitation is an artifact of a time when Frost Presence was slated to increase Runic Power generation by 100% and increase the cap by 30 Runic Power- all since outdated and otherwise unnecessary. Furthermore, Conversion’s constant devouring of resources serves to harm one’s damage output.
Before I get into Death Siphon, I’d like to sidetrack a bit. Before Mists, Glyph of Dark Succor didn’t give a free Death Strike. For Frost this wasn’t an issue since it shares the same rune combination as Obliterate, and for Blood this meant nothing because Death Strike is a rotational ability. For Unholy, however, this meant breaking our rotation entirely to receive vital healing. Unholy needed a spell that would heal them within their own rotational bounds. When Death Siphon was announced as a spell that healed based on Shadow damage dealt, I thought this was Blizzard’s solution to Unholy’s problem. Then it was announced that Death Siphon was boosted to Shadowfrost damage and consumed a Death Rune. Then it was announced that Vengeance wasn’t capping anymore. Now you have an ability that scales better with attack power than anything else in a Blood DK’s arsenal and heals them for it too. There’s still nothing wrong with that, but in the hands of an Unholy or Frost DK at 90, it heals for a pathetically small amount and is weaker than anything in our arsenals (assuming that your target is diseased up, of course). I’ve been told repeatedly that for these two specs it should just be considered a ranged attack spell, but Frost already has Howling Blast making it fairly redundant in that respect- and even if it weren’t, Frost also has two baseline Death Runes making DSip’s use still easier on them as they’d be able to cast it on-demand.
The conclusion? Having a fairly weak healing spell connected to a resource we don’t readily have access to makes it an equally weak choice for Unholy beyond a ranged attack… which we can’t use as an opener (and how many other times do we need a ranged spell…) due to that ‘don’t readily have access to that resource’ deal- which could be easily fixed, if it (and Necrotic Strike, just for good measure) got the Soul Reaper treatment. Death Siphon has a lot of potential and it’s rather heartbreaking to see it as such a poor choice for non-Blood DKs.

Tier 75
This is a tier I really don’t want to have to go into. If there were one tier that we as a class would remove? It would be this tier.
From the surface, Tier 75 looks a lot like three talents that do basically the same thing- turn Runic Power-based abilities into methods of generating Runes. It doesn’t apply to all abilities- Conversion comes to mind- but that’s the trade-up of damage for utility.
So why’s this tier so bad?
First, because it’s boring. It’s easily mathed out. Blood and Unholy DKs can macro Blood Tap with Rune Strike and Death Coil to provide more single-rune Heart and Scourge Strikes, while Frost can do the same thing with Runic Empowerment if they just prevent themselves from generating an Unholy rune by keeping one off cooldown when they chain Frost Strikes (another perk to having 2 Death Runes at all times). Runic Corruption isn’t even on the table, since its inverse-scaling with Haste has reduced its value significantly, and being 100% increase generation for 3 seconds (as opposed to 3.3 seconds across 3 runes, or a 50% chance to activate) doesn’t even make it 45% of a rune every time you activate a runic dump.
Quick math for the uninformed: (3 runes x 30% of a rune regenerated per proc) x 45% chance to activate = 40.5% of a rune regenerated per runic dump. Yes, that 5% or .3 seconds does matter in the calculation, since that would bump it up to 33% of a rune regenerated and make it almost equal to Runic Empowerment- a difference small enough to be irrelevant (incidentally no, it isn’t now).
Second, because it’s three talents that are intended to do exactly the same thing. It’s not a significant change of playstyle to pick one talent over another, just a difference in math- especially as having the ability to macro Blood Tap essentially just makes it as passive as the other two (and of course, putting it on the GCD absolutely ruined the talent on beta).
What I don’t get is why Blood Tap’s rune-generation value is so high (40% of a rune every cast, as opposed to Runic Empowerment’s 45% and Runic Corruption’s 40.5%) if it will always give you a rune you can use, especially now that Death Runes are required for Necrotic Strike and Death Siphon.

And why is it still called Blood Tap? Why not just trade the name with Rune Tap and keep the icons the same? All it would do is screw up some macros, people don’t look at the name of the spell as much as the icon!

Anywho, there are no objections on this end if they just scrap Tier 75 and repeat what they did before- have RE baseline and RC for Unholy, or at worst have a major glyph to turn one into the other since we don’t have many useful major glyphs for PVE anyway.

Tier 90
The pièce de résistance of today’s article, a long awaited review of Tier 90.
What a piece of garbage.

No, really.

No, REALLY.

Okay fine, you’ve convinced me to elaborate.
I’ve never understood the point of this tier. Ghostcrawler said back at Blizzcon that it’s a tier for AoE crowd-control, but that doesn’t explain Desecrated Ground (which doesn’t even save your allies from CC effects like Windwalk Totem does). In fact, calling it crowd-control only barely even applies with Gorefiend’s Grasp, since there’s nothing to keep the targets in whatever place they land aside from some well-timed CC brought by someone else. The least they could do is have it root affected enemies in place, or maybe taunt to the friendly target like an AoE Misdirect. Or hey, taunt to the enemy target, would be neat to see all the adds MC’d into mauling the boss just for a second. Even then, this isn’t considering that Gorefiend’s Grasp (like its single-target counterpart Death Grip) doesn’t even pull targets half the time!
Ours is the only tier 90 that has zero effect on damage output. The only one of the three that would have any effect on performance whatsoever is Gorefiend’s Grasp for an off-tank Blood DK, which in many DKs’ opinions, thematically should have been baseline for our tanking spec in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re not all completely useless. I love popping Remorseless Winter to save incompetent tanks from adds when I’m pugging, on the off-chance that they’re not immune to stuns (although at least I get more use out of it than I do Chilblains as Unholy…). Desecrated Ground has been stated to be useful in about… two boss scenarios? I can’t even recall the last time I fought a boss and was able to pop Lichborne or any sort of CC-breaker to resist a boss’ CC effect like Mind Control or Sleep effects, so yes, two is an all-time high. Is it a lot? Of course not. Is it enough to justify consuming our level 90 tier of talents, which Blizzard stated was supposed to “make us feel OP”, and otherwise feels redundant of our level 58 tier? Nope!

The success of Tier 90 comes entirely from the fact that it accomplishes exactly what Blizzard was intending with the trees: having each talent be an equal choice based on how you want to play.
How does it accomplish this? By having each one be equally pointless to your performance, especially as a damage-dealer.
While it may be “closed-minded” of me to look at this from a strictly DPS perspective, keep in mind that very few of our talents and glyphs have any impact on the damage role that two of our three specs focus on– the quintessential issue for why our talent choices are just so incredibly boring.

So, don’t you feel jipped.

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