Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Blood Bomb!


I didn't see that one coming.

Let's cut to the chase. The (proposed) Death Knight changes in Cataclysm are getting announced tomorrow, but one change was considered to be so big and would threaten to overwhelm all the rest of the changes in a nuclear fireball of a flame-war, that is was released a couple of days early to get people to simmer down a bit and focus on other things as well.

So, what is this change?

Blood is going to be the Death Knight tanking spec in Cataclysm.

I was rather surprised by this, not because people haven't thought that a particular spec could become a tanking spec - they have on many occasions; the reason that I was surprised was that every time that it got mentioned, people would loudly proclaim that Blizzard would never do it and the whole point of the Death Knight class was that Blood, Frost and Unholy were designed to be viable as both DPS and tanking specs.

Here's how tanking specs have worked in Wrath so far: first of all you set up your "unholy trinity" of 5/5/5 (or preferably 5/8/5 if you had any sense), this was absolutely mandatory - no arguments allowed, you don't have these talents and you're not allowed to outside to play with your friends...

After that, you zoom up your tree of choice depending on how you want your tank to work:  High survival with self healing, larger HP pool and excellent cooldowns for Blood, snap AoE aggro and more avoidance for Frost or crazy AoE disease threat and a pet ghoul for Unholy.  You chop and change between your survival and threat generation abilities as well as picking up the odd useful ability from low down in another tree.  The thing that I've liked about Death Knight tanking is the design flexibility, there's no cookie-cutter tanking spec - you pick and choose to match your needs and preferences.

After four years of gameplay, Blizzard tried to introduce a class with a flexible talent tree.  After two years of tweaks, buffs and nerfs, they've thrown in the towel.

There are two obvious reasons for this that I can see:

 The first being the constant nightmare of a balancing act that the designers have obviously had in trying to make everything viable, resulting in drastic changes since the class launch which are then inflicted on the players.  I've heard that coping with these changes has been described as "a challenge".  The end result as of patch 3.3.3 is that if you want to tank end-game content, you go Blood, if you want to blast though 5-man heroics, you go Frost, if you want to have small children stare at you and throw stuff at you, you go Unholy...

The second obvious reason is going to be the Mastery stat that is coming along in Cataclysm.  With Mastery basically making you better at what you do (depending on your main tree specialisation), how do you get it to differentiate between having to do two things at once?  With a pure DPS tree, it's easy - Mastery just makes you better at killing things, a pure tanking tree lets you survive and generate threat better... how on earth do you get Mastery to work with this system?

The answer has finally been revealed:  You can't.

So, whilst we've lost some flexibility and customisation, hopefully we'll have some stability with Blood being the tanking tree, Frost being the Dual-Wield and Runic Power tree and Unholy being the disease and pet tree.

Not that it affects me... I'm a Blood tank and a Dual-Wield DPS Frost offspec anyway...  Unlife continues as normal...

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