Friday, September 25, 2009

FMN: Blood

It's all about the Blood!

The third raid dps spec I tested for 3.2.2 was the big bad 2H Blood build. This is the classic Death Knight-with-a-big-two-hander-hits-hard spec. Late in the 3.1 Ulduar cycle it gained prominence as the top single target spec and became one of the two most popular dps specs overall (with 2H unholy pre-SS nerf). In 3.2, it remained very powerful. In 3.2.2, it received somewhat of a nerf by halving the damage done to the second target of Heart Strike, and with armor pen being weakened as well. I used the Fordragon Blades for the raid, the 232 version, so the weapon is comparable to the one-handers I used on the DW tests. So, will blood be my choice for now? Or will my niche be in the unholy tree?

The biggest debate in this spec right now is whether to glyph for dark death (bigger death coils) or disease (pestilence refreshes diseases). I tried GoD the first night 3.2.2 was out, but I personally don't like the unbalanced feel to the rotation. On the other hand, EJ theorycrafters are saying they think it will be better in the end. In any case, I tested 51/0/20 with glyph of dark death. Blood 2H dps relies on powerful heart strike spam and strong death strikes and has a fairly simple playstyle.

The rotation would be something like:

Your priority for 2H Blood is:
Diseases (BP, FF) > HS > DC > DS > IT > PS

It's a hard-hitting spec that relies more on physical attacks than the other builds with a fair amount of on-demand burst from dancing rune weapon and Hysteria (and ghoul). How did it do?

Pros: Hits very hard on single target or two-target fights. Very good burst for phase sensitive fights (e.g., Twin Valkyr when burning the shield). Decent when out of melee range (can IT and death coil).

Cons: Very straightforward spec; no perma-ghoul. Relatively weak on multiple add fights like Freya or heroic Anub. Does much better with armor pen, which was recently nerfed.

I ran the spec for a full raid night on Anub'arak, 25-man Onyxia, and several heroic Northrend Beasts attempts (still dying in P2). Actually, I ran it the previous night but both the data and the raid were fairly borked - but it still out performed the other two specs dps-wise. My dps numbers in the screenshot are somewhat inflated by the Onyxia fight, since melee are on whelps and all DKs should put up eye-popping numbers just from Death & Decay/diseases/blood boil (or howling blast) on the adds. Still, I enjoyed the playstyle: I've personally always felt good about DKs in plate swinging big 2-handers and this spec epitomizes that concept. I really like the DRW being on such a short cool down and being able to burst an add where needed, or use it after Icehowl crashes into a wall. I ended the night top dps which is gratifying, and clearly for my limited test duration, this spec outperformed DC spam and DW frost by a fairly wide margin. I suspect over time the difference won't be so striking (heh - and EJ theorycrafters agree). The nerfs to heart strike and armor penetration don't seem to have killed the spec as some have feared. I did have one upgrade from the first two specs I tested in improved bracers, and got a new cloak last night as well. I'll keep this in mind for the next test as well.
So, here's the report card on 2H blood:

1. DPS: Very good. Still shines on single target or double target fights, but also did well on many adds. A

2. Raid utility: Abom's might is easy to apply, but enh shammies overlap and hunter's buff is better. B+

3. Fun: Obviously very subjective as some find this boring, but I really really liked it, especially when not using glyph of disease. A very symmetrical rotation, big 2-handed hits, good burst, not feeling totally helpless when out of melee range. I miss my perma-ghoul, but don't miss having to watch for procs like howling blast. A

Overall, I'll give this spec an A, the clear winner so far. I was able get the most dps out of it, and I very much enjoy the playstyle. To see if 2H unholy - the return of scourge strike - can unseat blood for 3.2.2, see my next article early next week!

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