Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Damned Forever

So yeah, my bold experiment with Frost lasted about a week...

Trying out Frost in heroics, I was pulling about 80% of the DPS I'd normally do as Unholy. Ok, I thought, at least I'm giving some more DPS to the Rogues.

And then I got a Battered Hilt...

I went through the (awesome) Quel'Delar questline, determined to get my hands on a Cunning of the Shadows to be my new main-hander. In the end however, with egging on from my guildies, I decided to get Might of the Faithful and return to my Unholy build.

I can rationalise this as follows: Apart from myself, we usually only have one other meleer in raids, so the Improved Icy Talons buff is really only helping one other person, and maybe the tanks. Meanwhile, the ability to spread Ebon Plague to every mob in Pestilence range will boost our damage in AoE fights. It's also one GCD our Warlocks don't have to use.

And whilst it's true I already had Ramalandi's Blade of Culling, in terms of itemization, the Might of the Faithful is clearly a better Unholy weapon...

Well ok, maybe I am a loot whore...

But still, you have to admit, it's very shiney!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Back to Frost

I don't seem to be able to make my mind up about DPS specs, do I? Then again, the thing I love about Death Knights is the fact that whilst most hybrids have one or two DPS specs to pick from, we have one in each tree, each with it's own feel and each close enough to the others that you're not losing out.

Case in point, after downing Heroic Anub'Arak last night, he dropped two lovely one-handers. The Rogue didn't want them, so rather than see them sharded, I decided to go back to Frost Dual-Wield, that being my original spec when I reactivated Graysun. To be honest, I'd been getting some schtick from the meleers about me not giving them buffs ever since I went to Unholy, so this felt like I was "giving something back" (not that the lazy bastards ever gave me anything!).

I ended up going with a 0/54/17 spec that included Improved Icy Talons for the melee haste buff. I tried it out in heroics afterwards. I miss the big numbers from a 2-hander build (my best crit was something like 5k), I also miss the AP buff from Bladed Armor and the lack of threat reduction from Subtlety means I'll never pug an instance as DPS again, but it should be pretty nice for our meleers. Plus it's always nice to play with new toys!

Anub Down - 4realz!

I'll admit it, we kinda slacked on Trial of the Grand Crusader for the longest time. People were too into trying to complete Glory of the Ulduar Raider and there just weren't enough raiding hours in the week. Recently, I refocussed our efforts there and they finally paid off with us downing Heroic Anub'Arak with 30 attempts left on the count!

He also dropped a couple of nice toys which prompted a respec for Graysun. I'll go into that in another post.

Monday, 21 December 2009

WTB Life, PST!

So yeah, I've done a few pick-up groups since 3.3 came out. I've been working on getting Graysun and Ulushnar both some of the Emblem of Triumph tanking gear. One of our tanks has been AWOL for a few weeks now and I dunno if he'll be back.

Anyway, Graysun tanked an Old Kingdom pug this morning. Just after we killed the last boss, he got an achievement:

Ok, so I've pugged a lot, big deal. Then I checked my mail and found this letter waiting:

Attached was the means to summon this small, yappy-type symbol of my lack of social life:

My shame is now complete

Thursday, 17 December 2009

17th December Enbloggenations

So yeah, the first four Bosses in Icecrown: more challenging than the TotC bosses, but by no means impossible. Given the practise last week, and the fact that some of the encounters have been nerfed/fixed, I'm expecting a few one-or-two-shots when we go back in there tonight.

Apart from that, our only goal has been working on Anub'Arak Heroic. Our best attempt had him at about 15%, so I think there'll be a kill before too much longer. We've kinda neglected TotC heroic to focus on the Ulduar achievements for our Drake-hungry members, but folks are starting to accept we need a break from that particular hell-hole. A kill this week would be a nice way to finish the year.

Apart from that, I've just been working on Graysun's tanking gear with Emblems of Triumph. One of our Main Tanks has been flakier than normal recently and we may need a back-up until an appropriate replacement presents him/herself. On top of that, the difference between Dungeon Finder queue times as DPS and Tank are night and day. Gray can wait 5-7 minutes queued as DPS, compared to getting a raid straight after ticking that Tank box.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

I'm Ready for my Close-up!

Deathbringer Suarfang down! Ramaldni's Blade of Culling mine!

With the first four bosses of ICC down, it seems more fun and challenging than Trial of the Crusader (not hard) but it's gonna be a long three weeks until we get the rest down!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Into Icecrown Citadel!

I'm going to write a bit about our experiences in Icecrown Citadel, but first I should probably deal with the big hotfix announced to Unholy:

Scourge Strike can now crit only once. The Shadow portion of the damage cannot separately crit. We wanted to keep the double crit mechanic as a way of making Scourge Strike do more than just being an attack that hits for equal part physical and Shadow damage. The change just proved to be too bursty in PvP and provide too much sustained damage in raids. The Shadow portion Scourge Strike will continue to be increased by effects that currently boost Shadow damage. Source

It was fun whilst it lasted, but the change wasn't unexpected at all. I'll see how damage holds up in the next few weeks and if it isn't that great, I might give into the Rogue's whining and go back to Blood. (They're addicted to Abomination's Might)

But anyway, we started Icecrown 10 last night, and despite a few bugs and glitches, we managed to kill three out of the four available bosses.

*Lord Marrowgar: Fairly straightforward fight when you know what you're doing. Bit too aggro sensitive for me though, and ticking diseases on the Bone Storm phases led to me being gibbed a couple of times. I'll get the hang of it eventually.

*Lady Deathwhisper: Pretty straightforward when you know what you're doing. We wiped a couple of times due to sloppy add-handling, but nothing else provided a challenge.

*Gunship Battle: OMFG THIS FIGHT IS SO MUCH FUN!!!! Again, it's just a matter of coordinating people and prioritising targets, but the flavor mechanics behind it make the fight amazing. It's one of the more unique and genuinely fun fights I've participated in for ages!

*Deathbringer Saurfang: We got to this guy late and didn't get too many decent tries on him. Without Typhoon or slowing traps, the Blood Beasts were a pita. Best attempt was 8% before the Blood Beasts started munching the Ranged DPS and he suddenly healed to 20%. Heartbreaking, but I'm confident we'll get him next time.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

3.3 Thoughts

Ok, I had about an hour last night and about 45 minutes this morning to play around with Patch 3.3, so my thoughts will be necessarily brief.

*Despite my misgivings, the Dungeon Finder/Cross-Realm LFG is really good. I queued as a DPSer twice to do the daily random heroic (once last night, once this morning), and both times I was matched with a group within 5 minutes. And both groups were really decent. No drama, no fuss, just efficent killings.

*Unholy DPS is everything I hoped for in 3.3. I love my 12k Scourge Strike crits!

*Haven't tried the new heroics yet. That may have to wait until Friday because:

*Icecrown 10-man tonight! Initial reports suggest the bosses are easy, but I'll see how that translates to SCRC's skill levels.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Patch 3.3: Bye, Bye Blood!

Well, it's been confirmed that 3.3 will be hitting us tomorrow (or today for you sods in the Colonies).

With that in mind, I logged in this morning to change my specs. First of all, I tweaked my Unholy DPS build to 17/0/54 include Epidemic and Reaping. As I mentioned before, the buffed Scourge Strike and the passive pet avoidance from Night of the Dead deal with my two main peeves with the spec. I see no reason not to make it my main DPS spec now, especially since I've been struggling with Blood DPS recently.

My beloved Blood DPS spec has now become a Frost Tanking spec: 10/51/10. Why Frost? In one word: Howling Blast. It's an incredibly strong burst AoE threat move, which is the one area Gray's traditionally lacked in for tanking heroics. I don't see Gray becoming a raid tank, since we have an active and enthusiastic tanking corps, but it'd be nice to be comfortable pugging heroics as a tank.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

3.3 and Unholy

The other, more personal side of 3.3 is I may well turn Graysun to full-time Unholy DPS and not look back.

As I mentioned in my earlier post on Unholy, I'm not a fan of DPS builds that exist soley to fuel Death Coils. It's ended up that way because of the relative wimpiness of Scourge Strike.

I also have a big problem with Unholy's reliance on summoned pets, since they currently lack any sort of Avoidance ability to save them from any splash AoE the bosses deal. I tried Unholy last night on a few Firefighter attempts and I couldn't keep my Ghoul and Gargoyle alive through Shock Blasts and Laser Barrages.

Thusfar, I tend to switch to Unholy for lolAoE content (Heroics and Naxx runs for a Guildy who wants to do The Undying), or for Anub'Arak 10, where I want to limit my self-healing.

Happily however, both these problems are fixed for Unholy DKs in 3.3. Scourge Strike now does decent damage compared to the other FU attacks (and it scales better with Armor Penetration) and DK pets get 45/90% AoE reduction from the Night of the Dead talent. The rotation looks a little nicer as well, with more big strikes and less of a boring 10-second rotation. I'll play with the numbers in 3.3, but it might be enough to persuade me to stay.

3.3: The headache begins!

Well if MMO-Champion is to be believed, we've got Patch 3.3 due next week. On the one hand "yay, new content!", but on the other hand, "erm we're not quite done with the present stuff."

On Smart Casual's to-do list at present is:

Algalon the Observer - The relative worth of the rewards from this are dropping all the time, but I'd still like to see him dead.

Glory of the Ulduar Raider - We need One Light in the Darkness done to make this a reality.

Anub'Arak Heroic - We still haven't managed to do this.

This, along with farming easy content (Onyxia, TotC10 normal, early Ulduar) to equip new members, is eating up most of our three 3-hour raids per week.

In 3.3 I think we'll be able to drop farm night. That'll give us a night to work on Icecrown. If we extend an Ulduar lockout, then we only need to spend one night a fortnight clearing to Yogg Saron, but it means we only get one hour per fortnight to train Algalon, and one night a fortnight on Trial of the Grand Crusader.

I'm currently considering pitching this as a schedule for the guild for 3.3:

Week 1, Day 1: Ulduar day #1 (Clear as far as you can, doing relevant hardmodes, try to do Firefighter)
Week 1, Day 2: Ulduar day #2 (Work on Ys +1, extend lockout if we fail)
week 1, Day 3: Icecrown 10
Week 2, Day 1: Trial of the Crusader HM
Week 2, Day 2: Icecrown 10
Week 2, Day 3: Ulduar (Try Algalon for an hour or skip him, then back to Yogg)

Managing a two-week schedule will, I anticipate, be a headache. The only other option is to try and persuade folks to do a fourth night a week.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Reality Check

Have I just spent/am about to spend close to 3k gold and 30 Emblems of Triumph on getting Titanium Razorplate made? Am I insane?

Well yes, I am, but I feel justified. Yes, I have Thassarian's Battleplate of Conquest, but c'mon, look at the two side by side! For Blood the T9 Chest is easily the weakest-itemised part, and replacing that haste with more Strength, another socket (for even more Strength!) and a crapton more Armor Penetration is really too nice to pass up. It should put my current ArP to just under 50%!

I have the orbs, Ulu and Gray's Titansteel cooldowns are ready around the time I get home, and the guildie who's making it offerred to throw in the Saronite for the Dirks.

Let's do this.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Unholy Pacts

I've been experimenting with Unholy DPS recently on farm raids. Blood's still my first love, and I've collected an ungodly amount of Armor Penetration gear to support it, but people have convinced me I should have a back-up plan for Anub'Arak Heroic Mode, where Blood's self-healing becomes a detriment. Besides, Ebon Plague's a nice buff to have if you don't have a Warlock or Moonkin handy.

To this end, I've swapped my heroic-tanking offspec to a rather cookie-cutterish 16/0/55 Unholy 2H build.

Overall, I don't think I like it. The rotation's a rather mechanical 10-second "push something every global cooldown" deal, the only variation being when I have to refresh Bone Armor every minute. The whole rotation is basically geared towards generating Runic Power to cast Death Coils, which are one of your biggest damage sources.
The single-target DPS is comparable to Blood, and in AoE situations I kick arse, simply because my diseases do around twice the damage they normally do, and have a chance to crit thanks to T9.

That said, I don't get the 12k crits I get from Blood, and so whilst my damage is undoubtedly comparable, it just doesn't feel as fun. And I really hate Death Coil DPS builds. To me Death Coil is something you use when you're out of runes, or if the boss is out of melee range, it shouldn't be your rotation's raison d'ĂȘtre.

Still, if it helps us get Anub down, I'll persevere with it on some fights and hope the buffed Scourge Strike in 3.3 makes it a more fun spec.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

We Must Have Blood!

Blood is, and always has been my favorite Death Knight tree. Focussing on massive physical damage with a 2-hander and self-healing, it first attracted me as the "mirror universe" version of the Retribution Paladin.

When I first made Graysun my main raiding toon, Smart Casual had two Retribution Paladins, a Fury Warrior and another Death Knight all rolling on 2-handers, we also had no Rogues and one Restoration Shaman with an Enhancement off-spec rolling on 1-handers. With that in mind, I decided to make Graysun a dual-wielder rather than queue up with the other 2-hander users for those oh-so-rare weapon drops.

Since that time, all of the 2-hander users have quit the guild or been fired and we've recruited two Rogues. This meant I could return to my first love and start hitting things again with a large 2-hander. And by 2-hander, I mean Aesir's Muthalovin' Edge!

This is Graysun's current Blood Spec. It does great DPS by itself, but what's really nice is that it possesses two strong DPS-boosting cooldowns in Dancing Rune Weapon and Hysteria, both really help with pulling ahead in DPS races, or if there's a target that needs to be burst DPS down.

The other nice thing, which I mentioned in my last post, is that I can actually get excited by gear with Armor Penetration on it. Whilst the stat may well be going the way of the Dodo in the Cataclysm expansion, it's very prevailent on Melee Plate right now, and Blood's reliance on physical damage means it gets a lot of benefit from it.

Monday, 23 November 2009

So Why Bother?

So why am I blogging? I guess I'm blogging to talk about being a Blood-specced Death Knight and the Guildmaster of a 10-man guild. Within the limits of my knowledge of both.

I'm certainly not a "master" of the Death Knight class. Almost everything I've learned about the class has come from experienced players of my aquaintance and the theory monkeys over at Elitist Jerks. I've reached a level of gear and skill I'm comfortable with, but I can't pretend to know the ins and outs of it yet the way I do with Paladins and Tanking. I'm not even at a stage where I feel confident enough to comfortably guestimate useful stats beyond the normal Strength > AP > ArP > Crit > Haste priority.

Neither is my guild likely to be pulling a world (or even server) first out of it's arse any time soon. The core of my guild is some of the most skilled players I've been privileged to know in my time in WoW, but our dogged adhesion to 10-man content means we'll be continually pipped at the post by 25-man guilds who overgear the content and manage most 10-man hard modes and achievements by brute force.

What I know about Blood DPS is this:

*Big Numbers are cool. 11-12k crits make me happy and were something I never saw when Ulu went Ret.
*I can actually get excited about the presence of Armor Penetration on gear.
*Having a big two-hander is really really nice.
*Despite my fears, I don't feel like a budget Ret Paladin. The flavor is quite different.
*Death Knight Tier has been uniformly cool-looking since launch. The same cannot be said of Paladin Tier. (Alliance Tier 9 doesn't count for either class!)

What I know about managing a 10-man guild is this:

*It's easy for a core of exceptional players to shine.
*It's easy (and dangerous) to come to rely on that core. RL can and will sabotage every best-laid plan.
*There's a low effort-to-reward ratio. 10-man heroics will brutalise you in 10-man gear and offer loot comparable with 25-man normal modes.
*It can be demoralising to see people in 25-man gear steamrollering content that's kicking your arse.
*The victories are sweeter when you see 10 people lock in and perform an encounter flawlessly.

I dunno, does it sound worth it?

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Oh hai, some of you may know me as Ulushnar from the Maintankadin boards and from my old, semi-retired blog: Spacegoat: Note to Note.

I retired Ulu from raiding at the start of October this year. After two and a half years of playing a Protection Paladin, earning myself a maintank spot, I needed a break. As much as anything else, I really nothing left to prove with Ulu, going from the days of "lol, Pallies can't tank" to "LF Tank, must be Paladin". I needed a change, and given my guild had two Retribution Paladins and two Holy Paladins at the time, I looked elsewhere.

These days, I play Graysun, a DPS Death Knight, specced into Blood, and this blog will follow him, his trials, tribulations and the search for more DPS than the other guy. (I hate that guy!)