Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unholy 4.0 first raid impressions

Well, I've had a chance to do more than just hit a dummy on PTR finally and while I'm a few weeks late, I'll start by posting on how things are going in my first raids as unholy. While I also realize that things are still going to be changing as we move towards Cataclysm and 85, it's still worth looking at how the mechanics changes are affecting us in raids now.

First of all, yes, people are seeing rather dramatic increases in dps overall. Unholy is doing well, and while the theorycraft says frost should be on par with unholy, due to bugs and some factors that affect actual raid conditions, unholy remains potentially the top dps spec.

AND, that means bupkis. DPS at 80 is unimportant. Sure, it's still fun for the next month, but it's completely meaningless. Blizzard will continue turning knobs and you should expect your dps to go up and down accordingly. What matters is what we'll be doing at 85, so I'll write less about maximizing dps (I know, quite a shock coming from Hine) and more about playstyle for now. While I AM properly gemmed/enchanted/reforged, I'm not even trying to do max dps per se for now (for example as I mentioned earlier, I've already dropped blacksmithing and have leveled mining which is a significant dps loss).

So, in no particular order, a few musings on unholy in raids at the moment.

1. Unholy aoe is still very strong. While they messed around with aoe a lot, and nerfed a lot of coefficients, unholy has several very powerful tools in it's arsenal. Death & Decay remains an extremely powerful tool, especially for large groups. Diseases are at a reasonable level right now, and while they will be tweaked from time to time, Blizzard continues to say that pets and diseases are central to the spec. So naturally, we'll be pestilencing diseases to extra mobs for the forseeable future. Blood boil also is very effective aoe with larger groups, particularly when combined with the pestilence and blood boil glyphs. Even with smaller groups (2-3 larger mobs) unholy can be effective with a Dark Transformed ghoul cleaving like a mini Fury warrior.

2. Unholy pets are insanely good. I have a feeling they're 'too good,' which eventually will result in nerfs. I hope for unholy's sake that Blizz can find a happy medium. The ghoul alone will account for well over 20% of your damage as unholy, while gargoyle and army chip in extra dps as well. I'm very very fond of how the ghoul synergizes with the unholy spec now. Not only is the Dark Transformation (DT) such a cool new toy, it's visually impressive and is very powerful combined with heroism or unholy frenzy.

Of course, the strength of pets is also a significant concern for any fights like Blood Queen Lanathel, where our pets don't get the same buffs we do, making unholy very weak for those fights. I really hope Blizz pulls their head out on this one and lets pets get the appropriate buffs for all their cool new fights.

Pet management will separate the women from the girls in Cataclysm (sure, rune/rp management will too, but pets will really differentiate the goods from the greats). You want to use your DT as often as possible, but there will be times when it will be a good idea to wait for a cleave opportunity for line it up with buffs. I had macroed it to several attacks, but am putting it on it's own keybinding for now so I can have more control over it. I've seen discussion of maximizing uptime by pooling runic power when the cooldown is up for DT, but that too has to be done with caution, because hitting Death Coil repeatedly is a dps loss due to losing Runic Empowerment uptime. Also we'll need to figure out when it's better to get gargoyle up as quickly as possible on boss fights vs getting DT going as quickly as possible (it's very difficult to try to do both). Interesting times.

3. New talent trees. To be honest, I'm not a big fan. Yes, I've read ad nauseum from Blues about how we 'didn't really have a choice' before because we always found the ideal cookie cutter spec anyway, but halving our talents still just feels like a ripoff to me, especially while leveling where each 'ding' meant new shinies to play with. Additionally, we don't have the opportunity to go as deeply into trees other than our designated specialty, which I think could potentially have added lots of good flavor to our specs. Ah well. I do like some of the new talents, just not particularly the way Blizz is giving them to us.
While I'm on talents, I've said that I LOVE Dark Transformation. I DO I DO indeed. :) It's almost as good as my favorite trinket (Deathbringer's Will for those of you who may have missed it). Additionally, I like how the talents interact with each other and allow greater synergy with pets. They certainly make Scourge Strike a beast, especially when coupled with the prime glyphs. However, I still have one major major disappointment; Unholy Blight. Like so many, I miss the old UB and wish they could do something cool/fun with it like it used to be. Shoot, I'd be happy with almost anything, just not the terribly weak, boring, passive and generally almost useless tiny dot it has been for the past year.

4. Single target dps: AKA, the epeen-measuring yardstick by which our 'goodness' or 'badness' is demonstrated for all to see: I think we'll be ok. I've already said the numbers don't matter right now. So, while unholy DKs are posting Saurfang parses well over 20k, I don't really care about that right now. What I do see is that unholy has a manageable way of approching such fights. It will be even better when we have outbreak, but even so, it's really not too bad. We start off with Icy Touch and Plague Strike for diseases, then alternate between SS, FS, and DC. While it's fairly simple - and not that different from before - for some reason I prefer it. It used to be that we'd dump runic power at the 'end' of a rotation, but now you want to space out death coils whenever possible. I'm still getting used to it, but you'll see how wonderful it can be to keep those rune refreshes going at a hugely accelerated rate. I do very much like that they changed the rune requirements for SS to be a single unholy rune, and FS to be blood/frost. It very much simplifies them so that we can line them up well. The nuances will come in time (fun stuff like how to use blood tap and all that jazz), but for now the basics are in place and working well.

This obviously is not a 'how to' for unholy dps - elitist jerks already has well-written guides on that - but an over all 'feel' for where unholy is. And overall I'm fairly pleased.

Now, if only I could name my ghoul!