Truly Damned, Part 2 – The Contemporary

Continuing from yesterday…

With our current expansion, Unholy hasn’t been faced with a complete revamp that changed the way the spec plays… despite how much we as players wish it did.
The bulk of Unholy’s problems remain unsolved- in fact, many actually got worse.

Blizzard took a crack at our AoE during the Beta, after a long struggle of reminding them that we were playing whack-a-mole using Icy Touch. Their solution was yet another revamp to Reaping: this time, Blood Boil would generate Death Runes, and any Frost Runes converted by Festering Strike would remain Death Runes if Blood Boil or Pestilence was cast using them. This solution was briefly met with great praise, until we remembered that we still have to use Festering Strike to get those Death Runes in the first place, and now spend extended periods waiting for those Death Runes to come up. This also adds onto our ramp-up, forcing us to prepare for surprise adds up to 20 seconds in advance, even if this means sitting on runes until the adds became available.  We went from hitting Icy Touch, to sitting down and doing nothing at all- a slide along the X-axis, not upward movement. Furthermore, we remain in the awkward position of having too many buttons we need to push in AoE- Dark Transformation, Death and Decay, Blood Boil- but never having enough buttons to push to AoE, as our options are restricted by DT/BB’s ramp-up and DND’s cooldown, leaving us forced to use our single-target options Festering Strike and Scourge Strike regardless.
What interests me the most about this situation is that we share a similar AoE rotation with Blood tanks- who emphasize Blood Boil to refresh diseases and Death and Decay to maintain threat- which is not only a scenario unique to Blood/Unholy AoE (each specialization is otherwise cut off from the others’ abilities, so no two rotations are even remotely similar except here), but between their extra Blood runes, Roiling Blood, Scarlet Fever, and most importantly Crimson Scourge’s free/enhanced AoE spells, our tanking spec has even more AoE damage potential than we do- and it’s having far more fun doing so than we are. The current state of Vengeance doesn’t hurt this assessment either, given how quickly it ramps up with groups of mobs!

Unholy’s resource generation also received considerable damage during the course of the beta, as Anti-Magic Shell’s Runic Power conversion was decreased and we lost Butchery and Runic Power Mastery. In the period before Improved Unholy Presence was re-introduced and Sudden Doom reduced the cost of Death Coil, we also had fewer Sudden Doom procs, fewer total Death Coils and longer periods of downtime before runes could be condensed into Runic Power. All of this resource starvation amounted to approximately double the time needed to activate Dark Transformation or summon forth our Gargoyle. “Super Timmy’s” cleave is an essential part of both our AoE and single-target burst, so the new-found difficulty in bringing him forth caused us to question the wisdom of an ability that takes 5 Death Coils and an Unholy Rune to cast. Improved Unholy Presence and the Sudden Doom change were cushions for the damage, but we still broke our legs with the fall; even today, we spend 20-30 second periods at the start of a fight just building up to a Dark Transformation in the hopes that the enemy targets aren’t all dead yet- or failing that, praying that the tank will pull faster and silently screaming at the healer for sitting down to drink because our Shadow Infusions are about to fall off.

What about our Gargoyle, again? We’ve come to countless conclusions about him. Various bugs in his AI make him the worst waste of 60 Runic Power that we have access to. Keep in mind that he is one of the only notable damage cooldowns left in the game that still consumes resources (save for Blood’s DRW, and various mana-based cooldowns considered irrelevant due to the greater ease of access there). Now add on the fact that he refuses to chain-cast as his AI seems to have him cast in predetermined pulses- making any gain of Haste irrelevant, since he’ll pause for the rest of the pulse anyway and keep a constant 11 casts. Even if Haste did matter to him, he was “fixed” in beta so as to only benefit from Spell Haste, meaning Unholy Presence, Unholy Frenzy and our new Unholy Aura no longer apply to him. This, along with his inability to scale with Mastery, means that the Gargoyle becomes less and less of a significant factor in our DPS as we gear up. Throw on that his AI now forces him to move within melee range of his target despite not having a melee attack, and to stop casting (sometimes momentarily, sometimes for the rest of his duration) when the enemy he was summoned to fight is slain or otherwise can’t be attacked, making him worthless in any encounter with multiple targets, or with one target with multiple parts, or one target who becomes untargettable for any period…

Besides Gary, how about our target-swapping? Yes, we have Unholy Blight now. However, calling that the solution to our problem means we’re pigeonholed into a talent, which I for one was fairly certain Blizzard was trying to avoid. Besides, it’s held back by a cooldown even longer than Outbreak, making it a consolation prize at best. What about Glyph of Outbreak? It doesn’t give us any Shadow Infusions or proc Tier 75, and costs more than Death Coil does, so pass on that too. With our complete reliance on diseases for damage output, we can only go where they go… so we stay put.
There was a period in beta where, instead of having Plague Leech, the first tier of talents included a spell called Vile Spew. This was sort of like an instant Unholy Blight for our Ghoul, which also dealt Shadow damage and cost Runic Power. This was a great solution to not only Unholy’s target-swapping, but also the class’ general lack of a Runic Power outlet during AoE (despite not activating our Tier 75 talents or Shadow Infusion either, and only being available at a time when Unholy was Runic Power-starved). Of course, this was an ability that screamed “PICK ME!” at Unholy and was… not quite as useful to Frost and Blood. One would think that this meant the ability would just go to Unholy, but instead it was scrapped entirely because we can’t have nice things.
As I’ve stated before, despite supposedly being the disease-based spec, we undoubtedly have the least mobility when it comes to diseases.

You would think that Unholy would have the least to complain about as far as our level 87 skill, Soul Reaper, is concerned. After all, it is a Shadow damage execute, and no longer consumes a Death Rune as it did for a majority of the beta process. However, since it does favor Unholy, our damage output is actually balanced around the optimal use of Soul Reaper; our DPS in a single encounter is significantly weaker than Frost’s until we get within Execute range, at which point we begin to average out. We face the dreadful circumstances of being balanced around the shortest phase of a standard fight- and this is all assuming the boss doesn’t pull some funny business like self-healing, shielding, flying away, cloning, spawning adds, etc. that would make this phase an even smaller part of the encounter… all relatively common concepts in Pandaria.

As for the diseases themselves… we’re completely bored with being the disease spec. We’re tired of being held down by a title with no weight. Every specialization now brings the same two diseases to the table; the only reason why our diseases aren’t completely removed is because every DPS spec in the game has some form of damage-over-time effect. There’s no synergy between us and our diseases anymore, aside from some damage you may as well bake right into our Strikes. In fact, really the only reason we can be called the disease spec is because of Ebon Plague’s increase to their damage- Festering Strike’s ability to prolong them is outclassed by Frost’s and Blood’s ability to refresh them entirely as part of their rotations, and any other flavor they once had is simply gone.
This is mostly the point of my last post- we’ve gone from a spec with up to 6-7 diseases and everything powered by them (as overpowered as that was), down to 2 slightly-stronger diseases and a handful of abilities exclusive to us (which ruins the point of Strikes improved by diseases, because with Outbreak as our opener, nobody notices the difference). We feel penalized for not hitting Outbreak, not rewarded for applying diseases.

For those of you who are into PVP, we’ve also completely lost Desecration. You can always pick up Chilblains, sure, but that means you have to spam Icy Touch and Chains of Ice to maintain control rather than anything truly damaging. The change to Necrotic Strike’s cost essentially means you can either go Frost or go home, since you won’t have easy access to Death Runes without Blood of the North. Your ghoul bruises like a peach, having less than a third of your health, so good luck using your one advantage over Frost with him dead.

I leveled as Unholy in the beta for Mists and as Frost on the live servers, so I spotted considerable differences between the two- I got to 90 twice as fast as Frost, and realized I enjoyed it far more than I had Unholy. Unholy is tied down, always setting up for the big guns but never being able to bring them forward before the target dies. PVE mechanics in Mists generally favor Frost’s burst, consistency, mobility, ranged advantages and AoE potential to Unholy’s constant ramp-up, rigidity, stagnation and stacking of several (individually weak) damage sources.

Suffice to say, Unholy is a spec truly damned by those responsible for its current incarnation.
Not in a good way, either.

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One Response to Truly Damned, Part 2 – The Contemporary

  1. Pingback: AoE Review | Morbid Musings

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