Feedback: Death Knights

Please use this thread to post feedback on the Death Knight class, once you’ve tested it in the Dragonflight Alpha.

Thank you!

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Hello Death Knights!

We’d like to kick things off here with a talk about some future plans for both the Core and Unholy Death Knight trees. While all specs can expect iteration as we navigate through alpha and beyond, this update will focus on the two trees mentioned.

Core Tree

In next week’s Alpha, you can expect to see an updated layout to the Core tree. In its current iteration, the tree feels a little too linear, with lower variance in customization as you progressed down one of the branches of the trees. To alleviate this, we’ve added connecting nodes to Blood’s branch from both the Frost and the Unholy sides of the core tree before the 1st gate, and one after the second gate. We’re also adding more nodes above the first gate, to add some more flexibility when picking up utility options.

We’re also doing some talent re-arrangements to fix dependency issues (preventing players from picking up talents with 0 value based on their prior picks). Here’s a work-in-progress picture that might give a better idea of what that means.

In the core tree, we’re going to move forward with some known bugs. While most things that aren’t actually working should be marked as NYI (Not Yet Implemented), we missed one with Empower Rune Weapon adding charges (for Frost). It’s currently not giving a charge if you learn it in both the Core and Frost tree. This will be fixed in a future alpha build.

Rune Strike is intended to only be available prior to choosing a spec. Each of the specs first talent choices should replace Rune Strike. This will be fixed in a future build.

Unholy

As we move into future builds, we want to tackle two main issues we’ve heard about from the community. The first is the issue of cooldown desyncs which is caused by a few different talents and some oddly timed base cooldowns. This will be our first priority. Secondly, after these changes make it to the alpha, we will want to tackle the overall structure of Unholy’s talent layout. The tree layout changing will take some time but we want to give an early heads up that we are actively looking at it and you can expect changes in the future.

Our initial goals with this include:

  • Update the cooldowns of Unholy to better sync with each other and prevent the dreaded desync issues the spec has seen. Generally we should expect 45/90/180 second cooldowns for Unholy.
  • Reduce the number of “RNG” mechanics the spec has to deal with.
  • Restructure the tree layout to include removing some talents, updating existing talents, and adding new talents. We’ll mention some of these changes below, but this will not be a comprehensive of all changes coming.

Some changes to expect in a future alpha build:

  • Deadly Coil: Reduces the Runic Power cost of Death Coil by 5/10.
    • This talent will be removed as a talent and wrapped into Death Coil baseline.
      • Developers’ notes: Deadly Coil has become quite important to how smooth the Unholy spec rotation feels and at this point is better served baseline than as a talent that can be opt-in or out of.
  • Unholy Command: Damage Dealt by Death Coil reduces the cooldown of Dark Transformation.
    • This talent will now read “Dark Transformation’s cooldown is reduced by 8/15 seconds.”
      • Developers’ notes: This should help Dark Transformation’s cooldown feel less RNG (or punishing for players who don’t manage Death Coil perfectly) and also align with the rest of their talents.
  • Infectious Wound: Festering Strike has a 20% increased chance of applying 1/2/3 additional Festering Wounds.
    • This talent will be cut or reworked.
      • Developers’ notes: While this talent may be repurposed rather than cut, we plan to cut the current randomness and rework it to provide a more consistent benefit, with the goal of better helping players play around the talent rather than hope it happens at the right moment.
  • Epidemic
    • Damage to be buffed.
      • Developers’ notes: With the new talent that allows Death Coil to cleave, the line on when to Epidemic and when not to Epidemic has been widened. This is not ideal. With the changes to Unholy Command and the damage increase to Epidemic, this should help cement Epidemic’s position at ~4 targets.
  • Army of the Damned: Death Coil reduces the cooldown of Apocalypse by 1 second and Army of the Dead by 5 seconds (and summons a Magus of the Dead).
    • This will be updated to reduce the cooldown of Apocalypse by a flat 45 seconds (and no longer be reduced by Death Coil/Epidemic).
      • Developers’ notes: This change will smooth out the cooldowns of Unholy to match our initial 45/90/180 sec cooldown windows. We are considering what to do with the Army of the Dead portion of the talent. Having the mastery of maximizing you’re your Death Coil casts to give you a chance at another Army of the Dead in an encounter feels like a great skill and mechanical hook for the talent while not completely harming your rotational impact the way Apocalypse did.
  • Summon Gargoyle
    • Developers’ notes: Currently, Summon Gargoyle does not feel like it rises to a capstone talent, and we have a few ideas in mind to better to solve that. First we plan to buff Gargoyle to better perform and shine in single target scenarios and also move it higher into the tree to be a little more accessible when the situation calls for its need. Secondly, we want to introduce a new and more powerful ability in this capstone position. As an example, “Dark Transformation empowers your Gargoyle and Army of the Dead for 20 seconds, increasing their damage by 50%." A talent such as this does a better job of “capping” a build that heavily focuses on Dark Transformation and your pets.
  • Tree Structure
    • The current tree has a few less than ideal dependency issues that we are looking to solve to prevent “trap” talent builds where we can.
    • The tree could also be a little more connected to allow for a bit more flexibility as you spec out your Unholy DK. As an example, Clawing Shadows’ current positioning feels a bit too restrictive at the moment.

Thank you all for the ongoing feedback! It’s greatly appreciated, and we look forward to more as we iterate throughout the testing period.

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Hey and thank you for creating a feedback post.

So far, I have played both Frost and Unholy DK on Alpha. I will try my best to provide a detailed but brief feedback based on my first impression, both for PvE and PvP.

1-Unholy
Unholy in general will go through a rework and the 30/45/90 approach looks good. There are certain complications regarding the build. The most obvious complication is the wound system still being at the heart of the build. You need wounds for any type of unholy build at the moment. The talent Infectious Wound as of now is too much RNG and can hurt the main rotation of the build. I believe this talent needs a more “consistent” outcome that it can offer. The rival of this talent, “Festering Strike” also feels underperforming, since it’s flat physical damage increase does not offer good value when pitted against “Infectious Wound”.

1.1-Unholy PvE
Unholy in PvE can be much better imho. I love the idea of implementing Deadly Coil by default into Death Coil (upcoming rework for Unholy). The addition of “Death Rot” and “Improved Death Coil” talents definitely feel good. I personally think that this is a step in the right direction, and builder+spender synergies can be explored further, without complicating the rotation. Does Death Rot debuff count as a disease? If yes, then further synergy with “Morbidity” talent can create interesting outcomes. The biggest problem with a “Death Coil” centric build is the underperforming “Harbinger of Doom” talent. This has been a problematic talent for many years and it definitely needs a rework/buff.

Clawing Shadows is an amazing talent that feels great. The problems about its current location in the talent tree has been mentioned in the rework post and I think this is definitely a step in the right direction.

While Unholy will see a rework, I personally like the new “pet centric” build approach. I think this concept can be further explored, by introducing a new talent that can provide “Rune of the Apocalypse” runeforge effects to your ghoul. The PvP talent “Spellwarden” already proved that this can be implemented into the game. This brings another question: I currently could not see “Unholy Bond” talent improving the effects of Rune of the Apocalype in Alpha, is this working as intended (also will this improve the Spellwarden PvP talent effectiveness as well)?

1.2-Unholy PvP
Unholy still feels incomplete in PvP. The main problem of Unholy with regard to PvP is playstyle. In PvP, you need to use “Chains of Ice” frequently, which costs 1 Rune. That 1 Rune cost is too much for Unholy, since you need Festering Strike that costs 2 Runes to apply wounds (Unholy Frenzy is a very valuable CD that cannot be casually used). The talent “Pestilence” feels like a trap talent, since 10% chance for a wound in a death and decay window feels underwhelming. However, I can imagine a scenario where making Chains of Ice apply 1 wound to the target (100% chance) can create great value (will save runes) for Unholy PvP.

Another playstyle problem for Unholy PvP is Death Coil. Unfortunately Unholy DK’s mostly use “Death Strike” instead. Therefore, I personally think the new 30/45/90 approach is a step in the right direction, however, it still needs further consideration with regard to PvP. For example, talents such as “Death Rot” or “Improved Death Coil” feel good for PvE scenarios, and in “some” PvP scenarios where you are not focused, but your damage will be dramatically reduced if you have to spam Death Strike. Therefore, as a solution, Death Strike can may be implemented into “Death Rot” so you can retain your Death Rot stacks while also keeping yourself alive. The “Doomburst” version of the Death Rot talent can also be reworked, and make Death Coil flat apply 2 stacks of Death Rot instead. This way, if you are not pressured, you can choose to use Death Coil and build up damage faster, whereas Death Striking will result in a slower “Death Rot” damage buildup. You are effectively trading off between offense and defense. As of now, the spectrum is extreme when you have to Death Strike in PvP. With this change, the difference can be narrowed while retaining the option to make a meaningful choice.

Also, while we have to wait for the reworked version of Army of the Damned talent, I would like to higlight the importance of the 5 times nerfed “Raise Abomination” PvP talent. The reworked version of the Army of the Damned feels great for Apocalypse. However, when you select “Raise Abomination” talent for PvP, it does replace Army of the Dead and makes it a 1.5 min cooldown. Reworking Army of the Damned will be very important, since the Army of the Dead cooldown reduction may affect “Raise Abomination” PvP talent in a game breaking way.

There is a nother similar problem with the above mentioned statement. Will “Necromancer’s Bargain” PvP talent further reduce the cooldown of Apocalypse by 45 seconds as well? The reworked version of Army of the Damned will flat reduce Apocalypse cooldown by 45 seconds, which makes it a 45 second cooldown. In Alpha, we can still select 3 PvP talents. If I choose Necromancer’s Bargain and further reduce the CD of Apocalypse, it becomes 0 CD, which does not feel natural. As it can be observed, while PvE centric changed/reworks are made, PvP side of the spectrum definitely needs a rework as well.

It feels great to see “Will of the Necropolis” and “Abomination Limb” talents in the main Death Knight tree. As of now, Abomination Limb is too deep into the tree. Perhaps its location (the default Abomination Limb) can be changed and then the final talent can be the SL Unity legendary effect version of Abomination Limb, with the extra duration and damage buff.

2- Frost
Frost feels more complete compared to Unholy. The PvP aspect and PvE aspect of the talent tree is much more visible in Frost. You go left for 2h obliteration PvP build and you go right for more PvE oriented cleave/ST Breath version. I really liked seeing “Enduring Strength” and “Frostwhelp’s Aid” talents returning. However, Frost does have its problems.

2.1-Frost PvE
My initial Alpha impression with regards to Frost PvE is Breath build being mega exciting. Having RoTFC and Biting Cold legendary effects combined with Chill Streak and Breath windows will ensure that Frost DK cleave damage becomes a powerhouse. Add 2x Empower Rune Weapon CD on top and you are looking at LONG breath windows and big cleave damage.

What about 2hander Frost PvE build? I tested it and it does not feel bad. The general DK talent “Cleaving Strikes” helps keep the Obliteration dream somewhat alive. However, I personally think 2 hander obliterate base damage needs a buff. The early Shadowlands Beta nerf to Obliterate is still hurting the build. “Improved Obliterate” talent can be buffed further to make obliteration a better choice for single target fights. Changing Glacial Advance cooldown can also help improving 2hander Frost builds. As of now, Breath build variations look like the top choice both for single target and AoE cleave fights.

2.2-Frost PvP
Frost PvP does not feel bad, but it still has the same problems. Your enemies have to pay attention to 2 cooldowns: 1- Pillar of Frost, 2- Chill Streak (2 trick pony problem). That’s it. Frost does not offer real damage outside of these windows. I personally think this needs to change with regard to PvP. Having a Frost DK on top of a player should feel deadly at all times. “Enduring Strength” talent can be synergized further with “Obliteration” or “Enduring Strength” can allow for big obliterate procs to continue for a limited duration. “Bonegrinder” can be reworked so it caps out at 3 stacks and Frost strike consumes the charges instead.
In general, I like the Frost DK talent tree distribution (it may need a minor rework), however I feel like Frost PvP talents need a rework. First of all, Chill Streak still exists as a PvP talent. In order for a player to pick “Enduring Chill” or “Piercing Chill” talents, they have to pick Chill Streak. What would happen if a Frost DK player picks Chill Streak PvP talent on top of it? As of now nothing happens in Alpha. If this will be the case, then one of the Frost PvP talents becomes worthless. Frost DK definitely needs new PvP talents. A Remorseless Winter centric PvP talent that may offer extra damage or minor healing reduction can work wonders and help solve the 2 trick pony problem I mentioned at the start of this chapter. The legion artifact weapon power that allowed additional Death Strike healing during IBF (Icebound Fortitude) windows can be a nice PvP talent. There are many options possible. The removal of Heartstop Aura is problematic for Frost PvP and I think this can be solved either by improving consistent damage, or adding a third trick CD (remorseless winter windows etc-see above-) into the equation.

3-Conclusion
Overall I feel good about the DK in the current Alpha state. I do have some concerns and I have tried to clearly elaborate them here in this post. I hope this post can provide inspiration in some way and help bring a better Death Knight gameplay experience for Dragonflight expansion.

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Frost Dks overall have gotten good talent trees, alot of variety builds, im excited to test it, feels def upgrade over shadowlands into right direction.