Blood DK issues; or, Look Ma, I Exploded!

90 Night Elf Death Knight
12055
Since this keeps cropping up in other threads, I thought it'd be good to finally give the subject a home of its own. In short, I'd like to kick off a discussion of the Blood DK mastery, the problems it has in the fights we're currently facing, and what's coming down the road.

Keep in mind that as a speculative thread this may all be rendered moot by patch changes or fight mechanics in T16, but that in order to prevent a "Firelands 2.0" style tier it's best to speak early and often.

So! Without further ado, I'll put the big issues - as I see them - facing Blood DKs now and in the future.

Note that these are more in the order that they occur to me, not order of severity.

Problem #1: Our mastery works against itself.
Death Strike is an interesting beast: It's sort of the ancestor of vengeance, in a way, in that it's a defensive ability whose effectiveness scales with how hard we've been hit recently. The problem is that while vengeance had many iterations done to fix its issues, death strike has been left largely alone over the (literal) years.

Simply put, every time we hit with death strike, we get healed based on how much damage (actual damage) we've taken, and then we get an absorb shield based on that heal.

The problem stems from death strike only counting actual damage taken. Let's say I take a large hit, then use my last frost and unholy runes to death strike. I parry the next boss attack, the huge blood shield fully soaks the next hit. Suddenly, the boss winds up a really hard hitting special attack just as my runes refresh again.

I have two choices at this point:
- I can use death strike, but the shield will be pathetically small, because I haven't taken any damage in the last five seconds. I'll take a large hit from the boss special, and then my healers will need to run around in a panic putting health back. Since I'm out of runes, it's entirely on them.
- I can not use death strike. I'll take an even larger burst, because death knights have the lowest passive mitigation of any tank (including monks, factoring in their stagger), and then get a huge blood shield by using death strike. The healers will likely pop a CD when they see my health drop into the floor... if I even survive the special hit in the first place.

Now, let me make something clear: Mastery working against itself isn't inherently a problem, except insofar as it contributes to our second major problem. It can be balanced around. The side effects, however, cannot.

Problem #2: Our mastery makes us take huge spikes.
Thematically, blood is all about taking big hits and healing them back. Personally, I like this. It's a neat mechanic. The problem comes when you start doling out special attacks that get close to a tank's maximum health.

If the difference between a paladin and a death knight is that the paladin takes 10% of her health while the death knight takes 20% and heals 10% back, that's fine.

If the difference between a paladin and a death knight is that the paladin takes 40% of her health while the death knight takes 80% and heals back 40%, there's a very serious problem.

Anyway. Blood shield is a very binary thing: It gives us a static absorb effect. You can actually count it something like a second, guaranteed avoidance: One death strike will mitigation 1-2 full boss autoattacks, depending on how much mastery you have.

The problem is then how we take damage. Healer mana efficiency rewards foresight, in that while healers can put back a lot of health quickly, it costs them an inordinate amount of mana to do so. If a warrior tank drops from 100% to 80% to 60% to 40% in three swings, a healer can cope with the steady damage income and compensate for it. If a death knight doesn't drop for the first two swings, but then plummets to 40%, the healer can't know if the death knight has the runes or not to react to it and is forced to wind up a big expensive heal to put back the same damage suffered by the warrior.

Problem #3: We don't have a good way to soak potentially lethal hits.
This is an extension of the first two, and is a side effect of heroic raid bosses hitting tanks post-armor for over half a million damage. Unless we're stacking stamina - which has its own huge list of problems - we don't have the pool to soak hits that size to get the full benefit from our mastery.

This is, in essence, a problem with having an almost exclusively reactionary mastery: Every other tank has a way to reduce the initial size of a hit. Death Knights, unless we're "pooling" damage taken by intentionally standing in the fire (or not using our active mitigation), don't.

TO BE CONTINUED...
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
12055
Problem #4: Our raid utility simply bites.
We have, including talents:
- Battlerez
- Bloodworms
- AMZ
- Death Coil absorbs

In 10m raiding, you get one battlerez, and it's shared among all DKs, warlocks, and druids. It's definitely a tool, yes, but chances are good you already have it taken care of.

AMZ is pathetic. It's about 135k magic damage on a 2 minute cooldown.

Death Coil absorbs are pathetic. It's like tooth and claw, but vastly less powerful and with a higher cost. Without vengeance - and the only time we'll EVER consider using it is when we're not tanking due to the 40RP cost - it absorbs about 20k damage. Whee.

The only thing worth mentioning here are bloodworms, and they have their own host of issues.

In the right situation, they're a group-wide Lay On Hands. I've seen a high-stack bloodworm burst put out over three million healing to six people.

They also do that roughly once every thirty boss fights.

Most of the rest of the time they just die, and I get more use out of them when a boss randomly picks one to be the target of a special ability instead of a player.

Basically, death knights lack meaningful raid support. It used to be that we made up for this with a wider array of cooldowns, but when we have to cycle those to survive what other tanks live through with their active mitigation alone, that advantage ceases to exist.
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
12055
So where do we go from here?

That's up to blizzard. There are band-aids they can apply (some of which are better than others) for most of these issues, but to be brutally honest, I don't think a "whole" fix is doable without redesigning our mastery or radically changing how tanks are threatened.

Band-aids include, but are not limited to...
- allow Blood Shield to only reduce half of an incoming hit (boss swings for 100k, you have a 100k shield, you take 50k and have a 50k shield)
- nerf mastery's scaling but make it count damage absorbed by blood shield in its damage taken calculation
- boosting passive mitigation (ala dragon soul t13 fix)
- boosting stamina scaling (ala burning crusade bears)

As for raid utility... I don't even know where to start. Nerf Bloodworm healing and allow overheals to apply an absorb shield to allies, maybe?
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90 Blood Elf Death Knight
8515
I would like to apologize in advance for the cynical and jaded nature of this post.

This is a rollercoaster us DKs have been on since the Cata Beta. Some of what you suggest was even suggested back then, actually. If you look back a year or so, there are countless idea threads (many good ideas for fixing DKs btw) that all fell on deaf ears.

We in the community have seen these issues for some time, and Blizz simply responds either "we'll wait and see" or "working as intended" until they can't refute the evidence. When that occurs (my guess next raiding tier) they will toss out a poorly conceived bandaid rather than fixing the root issues with our tanking setup/how they design tank damage in encounters.

As EFlow, Communism, etc (and many others) decided back then, it basically comes down to living with the poor quality of life that will continue to be the Blood Tank for the foreseeable future, or move onto a more "standard" tanking class and having a decent skillset with easier tuning and more reliable mitigation/avoidance mechanics.
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90 Night Elf Warrior
8435
My DK is only 88 and has only ever been used in old content or 5mans, so all of this is interesting to me. I remember reading up on this in Cata when I was doing progression 10m tanking with my guild, as my co-tank was a DK who was squishy compared to my God-tier CTC-capped paladin. /nostalgia But I remember these issues even then(as well as Eflow's Tankbot videos. Cracked me right the hell up).

So, random ideas incoming, and more experienced DKs can rip them to shreds :-)

1) Baseline purgatory - spike damage is the killer of all tanks, but particularly with DKs, as they have to get clobbered to really use their mastery. If not purgatory, maybe a version of a paladin's Ardent Defender? A get-out-of-spike-damage free card, although with some twist, like the heals from purgatory, or counting blood shield absorbs toward it.

2) Taunting bloodworms. I think this would be money as hell. Not controllable or a CD or anything(not counting trinkets I think DKs have enough mini-CDs) but I would love to see a worm taunt a boss/mob, get splatted, but give the tank/party/raid a little bit of breathing room by forcing a hit instead of random ability targeting.

3) I don't want to suggest a passive mastery, as I really enjoy the tank differences. Leveling a monk is sooo different from my warrior or pally. Actually, other than the hours on my pally, they've almost ruined me on other tanks. But something a bit more on-demand, maybe? Like, pallies used to be able to pop a CD and get holy power charges. Or they could use that tank mechanic from Firelands where you grow and get more stam with each hit or stacking of blood shield, give you a cushion somehow for playing 'right'. Ridiculous, yeah, but still. Could be fun. And that could make my Dwarf DK a real-sized person, which makes me happy.

4) A built-in Weak Auras that calls you bad names when you switch to Blood Spec from your DPS spec but don't apply Blood Presence. >.<

5) Anything playing with diseases could be cool. Like, drop a Desecration-style effect, anyone in range has diseases/plague/curses removed, and either gives the DK a buff or debuffs the enemy. Hellacious cooldown.
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90 Dwarf Death Knight
13220
Somehow, I feel like we've had this conversation before.

Anyway, problem is the same as it always was. The Death Strike model is only balanced on a razor's edge, if hits are even a smidgen too high, we go boom. If hits are a teensy bit too low, we become instantly OP.

Until Blizzard decides to rework or scrap the model, this issue will come up again and again and again...

EDIT: And for what it's worth, I've made my peace with it. I have two alts ready to go should tier 16 prove as problematic as 12. Though I was hoping to make it through an entire expansion with out main switching (for the first time ever).
Edited by Arcdeek on 4/23/2013 9:53 AM PDT
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90 Pandaren Monk
18265
I think at this point I already did my share of suggestions for DKs. I'm only glad that they actually listened to monk's feedback on mop beta and now we have an extremely polished class, instead of the band-aid rollercoaster that DKs goes through.

The things I recall that I suggested at some point or another:
- make blood shield a % reduction shield, mastery increasing the % (ironically, they did that with monk's stagger .. where we have a flat initial value, and our mastery adds to that).

For example 0 mastery blood shield reduces the dmg taken by the next few seconds by 20%, but mastery pushes that to 30.. 40% etc.

The problem of that is that it would be a gheto Shield of the Righteous, since nowadays the paladins stole that idea (paladins mastery worked differently back when I suggested that).

- make the shield have a "cap" on how much it can absorb per hit .. which is basically what you said, I remember that I suggested something like that back then .. for example:

You make a 240k shield, you reduce the next attack by 100k, the other by 100k, and the 3rd by 40k.

well .. there are several alternatives .. but, if they didn't fix by now, wait for the band-aid on 5.4 and cross your fingers for 6.0
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90 Pandaren Monk
8880
They don't care. If there is even a dev response it will be another one simply telling us we are wrong and to learn to play.
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90 Night Elf Warrior
8435
"Hmm, the DKs are mad about their mastery. Move avoidance should do the trick!"
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81 Gnome Death Knight
10100
"Hmm, the DKs are mad about their mastery. Move avoidance should do the trick!"


It's as if a million healers cried out in pain ... and then went OOM.

Edit: Posting and coding is dangerous.
Edited by Kahzregi on 4/23/2013 10:33 AM PDT
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90 Draenei Paladin
13095
04/23/2013 03:07 AMPosted by Krinu
There are band-aids they can apply (some of which are better than others) for most of these issues, but to be brutally honest, I don't think a "whole" fix is doable without redesigning our mastery or radically changing how tanks are threatened.


I really agree. When they're going back to the design board next expansion, they need to do much more homogenization with AM abilities. Not total homogenization mind you, but every tank needs some sort of "Push Button Recieve Bacon" ability like Shield Block or Shield of the Righteous where you press it and it just... works. It prevents damage.

Your analysis of Death Strike's design flaws very nicely sums up why I don't like or understand Death Knight tanking.
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90 Pandaren Warrior
15405
04/23/2013 10:26 AMPosted by Tailias
There are band-aids they can apply (some of which are better than others) for most of these issues, but to be brutally honest, I don't think a "whole" fix is doable without redesigning our mastery or radically changing how tanks are threatened.


I really agree. When they're going back to the design board next expansion, they need to do much more homogenization with AM abilities. Not total homogenization mind you, but every tank needs some sort of "Push Button Recieve Bacon" ability like Shield Block or Shield of the Righteous where you press it and it just... works. It prevents damage.

Your analysis of Death Strike's design flaws very nicely sums up why I don't like or understand Death Knight tanking.


In the case of SotR vs Shield Block, I really wish they'd homogenize them so that Shield Block was able to block all physical hits the way that SotR is a flat physical damage reduction. As it stands, SotR can mitigate Talon Rake/Hard Stare/Triple Puncture while Shield Block doesn't. Shield Barrier works, but not as efficiently.
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14 Night Elf Druid
0
Talon Rake is blockable.

And Block working on those would basically just make it too strong, is the issue. ShoR doesn't get up to the strength of mastery-stacked crit blocks by a long shot.
Edited by Kangarooster on 4/23/2013 11:18 AM PDT
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90 Pandaren Warrior
15405
Talon Rake is blockable.

And Block working on those would basically just make it too strong, is the issue. ShoR doesn't get up to the strength of mastery-stacked crit blocks by a long shot.


Whoops, you're right about TR. And yeah, it probably would make us too strong if that were the case.
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14 Night Elf Druid
0
The only thing that really annoys me is having to look up (or test) all these abilities in advance to see if they're blockable or not. It's not hard, but I wish the Dungeon Journal would state it outright or something.

But anyway, not a Prot Warrior thread.
04/23/2013 09:53 AMPosted by Leeflow
- make the shield have a "cap" on how much it can absorb per hit .. which is basically what you said, I remember that I suggested something like that back then .. for example:
This is a bit of a safer option that still maintains the DK "flavor" versus % based mitigation off Death Strike, just imo.
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90 Pandaren Monk
18265
One thing they could do, which they proved that they can do .. is to make DS heal based on unmitigated dmg, like vengeance.

Obviously they'd have to tweak the % heal accordingly so it doesn't get extremelly OP, but that would at least fix the "mastery nerf itself" issue. Where you could still produce a big blood shield even if the previous attack got absorved.

but honestly .. the "absorb cap per hit" would be the more elegant fix without completely reworking the system.

this way instead of "negate one attack, take a full attack .. negate one attack .. " etc .. you'd lower the dmg taken from 2-3 attacks. It would still absorb the same dmg, but in a more predictable and steady way ... instead of the current 00010001001

and why the hell they still didn't make AMZ to simply work like "reduce all spell dmg taken by 30%" without the cap. Similar to PW: Barrier, Avert harm and similars ... but working only on spell dmg. Because currently, amz only works on instant raid wide explosions. Anything that is constant dmg, and it's useless.
Edited by Leeflow on 4/23/2013 12:46 PM PDT
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90 Human Paladin
12670
AMZ is pathetic. It's about 135k magic damage on a 2 minute cooldown.


I think you're really underselling AMZ. AMZ absorbs ~400k or so on Jin'rokh 25N for us, which is basically worst-case scenario in terms of incoming damage (since the individual tick sizes are so small). It absorbs around a million damage on Megaera (which is a slightly more favorable scenario - larger ticks, but obviously much more overall total damage). In both cases we're not doing anything to optimize its potential (since, y'know, both fights are relatively easy for us at this point). Tranquility and Divine Hymn seem to put out in the neighborhood of ~1.6-1.7M healing per use in our raids. AMZ isn't as strong as them, but it's no slouch either, and it's prevented damage rather than reactively healed damage. On top of that, its cooldown is dramatically shorter, which does matter. (for example, at least in our raids, a 3min cooldown is available for 33% of Rampage phases; a 2min cooldown is available for 50% of them.)

135k seems like an absurdly low estimate unless you're talking about something like 10N Jin'rokh, and in that case you have to remember that other damage prevention cooldowns like PW:B and Demoralizing Banner probably aren't going to be all that much more effective, either, because the overall damage is just so low.

I do think it needs changes. One of the problems is that (presumably because it has a 2min cooldown) it's markedly weaker than the 3min cooldown options, so it doesn't fit neatly into a rotation. You can't say "ok, Treebob you Tranq the first Rampage, Priestly you Hymn the second, and Krinu you AMZ the third" because AMZ on its own might not be enough. This leads to a situation where you develop a 3min cooldown rotation, and say "eh, Krinu, just use yours whenever" which of course makes it feel unimportant, however much damage it prevents.

Anyway, I agree with lots of your other points and I feel a bit bad for calling out a single point from such a comprehensive list. But I feel like AMZ gets a bum rap for being "worthless" or "pathetic" when all the evidence I can see from our raids points to it just being a bit undertuned for a 2min raid cooldown, but in general okay. I'd support either lowering its cooldown time to 90s (which helps to make it more likely that one DK can sustain AMZ on a high proportion of boss abilities) or increasing its effectiveness (which is a more complex proposition, since the damage absorption cap has essentially nothing to do with how much overall damage it actually absorbs).
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90 Pandaren Monk
18265
The problem of AMZ is that it only works on instant magic mechanics.

Imagine a dire call from Horridon (but magic dmg instead of physical) .. On that, it would work, because it would soak the dmg and instantly disappear.

But on things like elegon, where it's a constant aoe pulse, it gets vaporized on the 1st tick and that's it.

And most mechanics are constant aoe dmg. Not instant bursts.
Edited by Leeflow on 4/23/2013 12:52 PM PDT
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I really hope they do get this right. I do love my DK tank, moreso than any of my other tanks, thematically and playstyle-wise, and while I'll probably never encounter the issues here due to never taking him on heroic mode raiding ever. I do understand they are a huge problem.

I miss the "feel" of the talent that allowed DK tanks the chance to "parry" spell damage

I like the idea of blood shield letting some damage through to contribute to the next blood shields.

They could (easily I'm guessing) re-work the numbers to make it so that any damage that is directed at the DK (even if avoided/absorbed) contributes towards the next DS.

On the raid utility, I'm drawing a blank on what to do without too much homogenization. It would be nice to have more... useful bloodworms as a whole, and to possibly have a way to have a raid-wide blood shield on a moderate cooldown or something like that. The tier bonus that let vamp blood be raid wide was interesting, but required you to not just use it for your own benefit (like all the related bonuses on that tier).

I've tried to love my other tanks, but... they just don't click like me and my DK do. So I really hope blizzard listens and makes them competitive in t16 heroics and beyond.
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90 Human Paladin
12670
But on things like elegon, where it's a constant aoe pulse, it gets vaporized on the 1st tick and that's it.


But it absorbs 75% of that first tick for people in the shield. Something like PW:B is going to absorb 20% off of a couple of ticks instead. AMZ will be worse, yes, but it's not that much worse - and it's got a faster cooldown anyway at 2min vs. 3mins, so it kind of needs to be worse, since it will be up more often.

04/23/2013 12:49 PMPosted by Leeflow
Imagine a dire call from Horridon (but magic dmg instead of physical) .. On that, it would work, because it would soak the dmg and instantly disappear.


It wouldn't just "work" - it would literally prevent 2-4x as much damage as any other cooldown in the game prevents/heals in that situation (depending somewhat on the size of the hit). To be clear, I'm not complaining about AMZ being amazing for that situation - there are plenty of places where something like Devo Aura is great, places where Demoralizing Banner is great, etc.

But saying that AMZ would "work" in that situation is like saying Devo Aura would "work" in a situation where your entire raid is spread out, taking lots of magic damage over a 6s window, and you can't heal them for some reason (maybe it'll blow up your raid if anyone receives a heal or something).

Devotion Aura doesn't just "work" in that situation - it's very obviously the absolute best choice available out of any of the options. That doesn't mean it's useless if the damage is healable, or your raid is clumped instead of spread out, or the damage only lasts 3s instead of 6s, or if most of the damage is physical instead of magical. It just means that it's not quite as good as it could be. And hell, sometimes all the damage is physical and Devo Aura is just useless - and that's okay too.

Like I said, AMZ is probably slightly undertuned, and there are obviously many other issues with DKs to address. But from everything I see on our raids, people really exaggerate how bad AMZ is.
Edited by Branar on 4/23/2013 1:54 PM PDT
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