Feedback: Death Knight Updates

Forum Avatar
Community Manager
#1 - April 18, 2024, 9:07 p.m.
Blizzard Post

In this thread, we’ll be testing and talking about Death Knights in The War Within. Look here for posts from the development team as adjustments and bugfixes are made throughout the testing period.

Please note that off-topic or inappropriate posts will be strictly removed.

Thank You

Before we continue testing The War Within, we’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who read and responded to the Hero Talent previews we posted over the last few months.

Looking to the Alpha

In this first Alpha build, every single class has at least one new Hero Talent tree available for testing, with the rest coming in the following weeks. We’re asking testers to initially keep several things in mind:

  • There are UI elements on the talent panel that are placeholder, including things like talent icons, text, or final UI art.
  • Some talents may not be functioning yet, or may be marked as not yet implemented (NYI)
  • New spell visuals and audio for several new Hero Talent trees are still a work in progress. Many trees are using placeholder assets for now that will be updated over the course of Alpha.
  • There are some talents that are not fully tuned yet. This is expected, and we will implement tuning adjustments throughout testing.

The combat design team has two big areas of focus right now that we are prioritizing over other concerns such as tuning or generic class updates/maintenance:

  • Finish building the remainder of the Hero Talent trees that are not yet available.
  • Fix bugs that are blocking testing of new talents.

With the Alpha build being playable and all of the discussion that will occur around the flood of data, we wanted to reiterate that the responses to our blog previews were highly valuable. The feedback we received allowed us to make some early improvements or revisions while we didn’t yet have a public test environment. It allowed us to take some big early swings on certain trees, and then react to early feedback quickly.

Going forward, we aren’t planning to publish any additional Hero Talent previews in blog form, since we’ll add the remaining classes to the Alpha as soon as they reach their ready-to-test state.

Working from Feedback

Several Hero Talent trees have received changes after reading feedback to the blog posts. Some of these were tuning changes to ensure that the Hero Talent tree felt competitive, while others were significant design changes. The feedback thus far has been of great benefit to us.

Going into Alpha, we feel good about the shape of the Hero Talent tree designs. Keeping a consistent number of utility and defensives nodes across all trees, having parity between number of choice nodes, and the overall structure of the trees are things we’re confident in.

We’re also working on tweaking some core class designs as well. In some cases, it was necessary to make adjustments to the class or specialization talent trees before significant work was done on a Hero Talent tree. In other cases, we did work seeking to improve base class talent tree designs.

Alpha Feedback

Now that we’re in Alpha, we’re looking for feedback on how it feels to playtest these trees. We’re specifically curious about:

  • Hero Talents that you feel are “required” for your spec in a type of content, such as raiding or Mythic+, or that push you towards picking a specific tree.
  • Hero Talents that create frustrating or unsatisfying gameplay or rotations for your spec.
  • Hero Talents whose functionality is confusing, unclear, or difficult to track during gameplay.

Throughput comparisons of Hero Talent trees are helpful, but we’re more interested in gameplay, feel, and choice feedback at this stage. Also, when possible, we appreciate it when you focus posts or articles on a single spec and Hero Talent tree, rather than combining feedback about multiple issues.

Again, Thank You

We greatly appreciate all your feedback on Hero Talent trees and are very excited for you to see everything else we’re working on. Thank you!

The World of Warcraft Combat Design Team

Forum Avatar
Community Manager
#2 - April 19, 2024, 2:17 a.m.
Blizzard Post

Hello Death Knights,

We wanted to take a moment to let you know that we are planning some updates for the Death Knight talent trees going into The War Within. While we’re still a few builds away from deploying the changes to the War Within Alpha, we’d like to outline some our goals with the changes, to give a better idea of what to expect.

DK Goals

  • Reduce the amount of resource flooding that affects each spec to varying degrees,
  • Reduce the throughput nodes toward the end of the tree. It currently has 9 such nodes that add a lot of tension and make it hard to flex into utility you’d otherwise like to take. While we don’t plan to outright cut the DPS throughput nodes, we will rather make them easier to pick up as you naturally progress through the tree. This will allow us to focus the capstones on much more utility or defensive focused talents.

Blood

Blood suffers from a lack of viable build options because it has to invest so heavily into the tree to feel like it functions. To some degree, all Death Knight specs suffer from this a bit more than other specs due to their unique leveling experience comparatively. We want to see where we can shift some abilities/talents learned in the spec tree that would make more sense baseline, to not only smooth out build diversity but also improve the leveling experience.

Frost

For Frost we want to take a look at Breath of Sindragosa to get it back to the more appropriate ~30 second duration to allow us more tuning knobs. This starts with the first note of reducing the flooding of resources available, one of the big offenders being Rune of Hysteria, which will see an update.

While we understand Breath is a very divisive ability it offers a very unique gameplay experience that not many of our other specs offer and while have no plans to remove that we do want to explore a potential alternative that feels fresh and exciting for players that wish to try something a bit different. Likely introduced as new capstone replacing Frostwyrm’s Fury which we plan to shift higher within the tree as a more easily accessible talent.

Unholy

As for Unholy, we have some plans to reduce the opener complexity. It’s not nearly as intuitive as it could/should be. Unholy also suffers from the amount of things it needs to track to really function optimally and it is less than ideal and we are looking to reduce the amount of “plates that need to be spinned”.

Gargoyle is one area we’d like to explore offering a new playstyle. While we don’t plan on removing it we do want to create a choice node with it that offers a less bursty option and leans a bit more into a more sustained damage alternative.

We’d also like to revisit Sudden Doom and diseases to offer a little bit more gameplay experience than the two currently do for Unholy.

Lastly, while we don’t have plans to remove Festering Wounds we do want find ways to make the friction of playing with them less. Vile Contagion was an ability introduced in Dragonflight that had some excitement around it but it never quite got its time. We plan to reduce its cooldown to 45 seconds and we plan to update Festermight to function similarly to Ironfur so playing around the act of bursting wounds feels less punishing and doesn’t require as nearly as much set up.

More to come

While the above isn’t exhaustive and doesn’t encompass all of our planned changes, we want to start the conversation so that players have a general idea of what’s coming.

Thank you for your continued feedback and we look forward to hearing more when we unveil the changes.

Forum Avatar
Community Manager
#3 - May 9, 2024, 8:22 p.m.
Blizzard Post

Greetings, Death Knights.

This week’s alpha build has our first round of changes to both the core class tree and the Unholy spec tree. As stated in our initial messaging our goals for the core tree updates were to shift some of the damage throughput at the end of the talent tree to earlier in the tree. For Unholy our goal was to address some of the flood of resources, reduce the number of things that need to be tracked to play optimally, increase pathing as well as choice, and reduce the number of nodes you need to pick up to play the spec fluidly. We will go into a little more detail below for both the core and Unholy changes.

Core

The core tree has undergone a decent reshuffling of talent placement, node pathing, ability’s becoming baseline and talent rank reduction.

Due to the unique leveling experience Death Knights have and not starting from level 1, they had a reduced amount of abilities baseline and had to “buy back” several abilities that other classes and specs would have normally earned as they levelled. Heading into The War Within we are reassessing the stance on this for Death Knight not only for abilities they had to talent into in the core tree but also their spec trees. The hope here is by freeing up some of these talent points you had to spend to make a functional leveling experience you gain a few points that allow you to flex into more optional talents without locking you into one build.

We have also updated several pathing nodes and moved around a few nodes to better fit the new tree philosophy. Structurally the bottom of the tree no longer holds 9 throughput talents and they have been shifted to earlier in the tree and many of them have been reduced to 1 point. Again, allowing for more build variety and the ability to pick up situational talents when you might need.

We hope that the update to the core tree allows for more expression when building out your talents and not as if you are locked into one talent build with very wiggle room to pick talents reactively for the situation you are facing.

Unholy

The Unholy talent update focuses on reducing the number of talents that you had to pick to make the rotation function in a reasonably coherent way. This includes Epidemic and Outbreak baseline and addressing the number of ability cooldown reduction talents. Unholy suffered from having to choose multiple talents that reduced their cooldowns to align in a way that made sense from a gameplay standpoint. This made playing the spec any other way unreasonably convoluted especially if you were new to the spec and trying to learn to play the spec. We have removed any talent that had any sort of cooldown reduction to abilities and baked them baseline into the spec (this includes Army of the Dead which is now a 3-minute cooldown).

Secondly, we wanted to address Sudden Doom which has been feeling lackluster for awhile now. Most notably we’ve updated its proc functionality to be more consistent instead of using our RPPM system which is usually found on trinkets and other item procs. It now has a base 25% chance to proc with bad luck protection built in. The hope here is this feels more fluid and a normally occurring proc that fits well int your rotation instead of one that feels like you can go long periods of time without it. We are still noodling on the base percentage chance and values are subject to change, but we’ve found this to be a good starting point. We’ve also updated its functionality to cause your next Death Coil or Epidemic to crit to add a little extra punch to the proc. Alongside some talents that interacted with Sudden Doom and the new talent Doomed Bidding we hope that Sudden Doom feels much more impactful as a class proc.

We’ve also cut several talents that felt somewhat lackluster or just did very little for Unholy, most notably Feasting Strikes and Replenishing Wounds. We hope that with the reduced amount of must pick Cooldown talents, never picked “useless” talents, and new talent choices there are more appealing choices to be made within the tree that allow you customize in a way that fits your needs. Lastly, there are a couple talent nodes that have temporary “Not Yet Implemented” talents. We will be updating in the future build and eyeing talents that add a little more interaction with diseases in potentially exciting ways.

Thanks for your patience! We look forward to hearing your feedback on the above. Next up-- we’re working to get our planned Frost and Blood changes in.

Forum Avatar
Community Manager
#5 - May 14, 2024, 10:21 p.m.
Blizzard Post

Hello, Death Knights–

This week’s Alpha update includes another round of changes for Death Knights – this time focused on the Frost tree. Like our last round of changes for Unholy, we looked at talents that felt more appropriate to be baseline for the spec and talents that worked better as 1 rank instead of 2. Notably, we made Fatal Fixation and Rime baseline, reduced Frostwhelp’s Aid, Enduring Strength, and cut both Cold-Blooded Rage and Invigorating Freeze and reduced their new talents to 1 rank.

The goal with the above changes is to cut down on build friction allowing for more customization as you spec through the tree. These changes alongside other talent movements and new pathing connections should help create a better experience for build variety.

We’ve also created a variety of new talents and added 2 new capstones that focus on your auto-attacks which should help give some better sustained damage outside of Pillar of Frost windows. These talents also complement both Obliteration and Breath of Sindragosa builds and add some unique gameplay that expands on the Shattering Blade talent node.

We’ve added Razorice to the targets unit frame to allow easier tracking on when to use Frost Strike. Frostscythe has also seen an update to move it out of the regular rotational rune spender to a big heavy hitter on a medium cooldown. Its rune cost has been increased to 2 and its damage has been greatly increased and is always guaranteed to critically strike. It also has unique mechanic that reduces its cooldown when you consume Killing Machine which has some fun synergy with the suite of new auto-attack talents we’ve added to help your Killing Machine procs.

Lastly, we increased Breath of Sindragosa damage to compensate for the loss of uptime from our first round of changes which should lend itself to a burstier playstyle with less focus on “infinite” duration buffs. We are keeping an eye on its current Runic Power cost which is unchanged since its increase in Dragonflight. From our internal testing, we’re seeing 30-40 second breaths, based on situations but the are many scenarios where it can feel extremely tight as you wait for Runes to replenish, which means we may need to look at its cost per second and pulling out some runic power generation elsewhere.

We would love your feedback on how the current iteration of Breath of Sindragosa feels on uptime. Tangentially, we still have some work we’d like to do on Obliteration build resources especially as it pertains to Runic Power consumption as it can still be flooded a bit inside cooldowns.

Thank you for the continued feedback. Our next round of changes will be focused on Blood updates, Unholy, and Core talent iteration based on feedback we’ve received so far.

Forum Avatar
Community Manager
#6 - May 21, 2024, 9:43 p.m.
Blizzard Post

Hello again Death Knights!

Today’s new alpha build has some further updates to the Class and Unholy trees, mostly as it relates to their respective layouts. We heard plenty of feedback on how the Class tree fell short in some of our stated goals especially in the latter half of the tree. To address this, we’ve split out the newest choice node into individual nodes at the capstone level and added a new talent Unyielding Will that removes harmful magic effects when activated.

Blood Draw is no longer at the capstone level and has moved to an optional location in the 3rd gate. We’ve also reduced the ranks of Osmosis, Subduing Grasp, and Runic Protection which feels more appropriate for their effects. We’ve also restructured talents throughout the 3rd gate of the tree to something that should feel better to navigate in addition to the latter talent half restructure we’ve done some updates to the pathing in the 1st gate.

Mind Freeze and its follow up talent Coldthirst are now available on the left side of the tree and are completely optional based on your talent preference. To accomplish this, we shifted Icebound Fortitude to the starting position for Frost. We hope this latest round of updates feels much less restrictive and generally more exciting to navigate. Thank you for all the class tree feedback and we look forward to hearing your feedback on the lates revision.

Unholy’s talent tree changes were a little smaller in scope, but we aimed to address the primary concerns for the natural flow of the tree and some choices feeling at odds with each other and what your build is asking you to do. The general idea of the changes shifted the left side of the tree to be more “disease focused” and the right side “pet focused” while the middle has choices that are appealing to both types of builds. The biggest shift you will notice is the movement of Unholy Assault and Festermight functionally swapping locations with Morbidity and Superstrain.

Ruptured Viscera has moved to the right side of the tree and is less of a “gating” talent pick for something that should feel more optional. Lastly, this build has a functionality change for Sudden Doom to help address a few of the problems with the most recent changes as it pertains to Runic Power overflow and Festering Wound generation. Sudden Doom will now reduce the cost of your next Death Coil/Epidemic by 10 Runic Power (was free).

We tested removing the Runic Power cost reduction completely but found that it was easy to become starved outside of cooldowns leading to some higher than desired downtime. What is also nice about this change is it gives us a better tuning hook for future balancing of resources if we find the amount to be too little or too much. The second part of this change is a bit experimental in nature, but Sudden Doom will now make your next Death Coil/Epidemic burst a Festering Wound. Internally with testing we have found it creates a natural cadence in which you want to press Festering Strike instead of relying only on passive wound applicators.

The other perk of Death Coil bursting a Festering Wound when consuming Sudden Doom is it helps ease the friction of what to press during your cooldowns. This has created a little additional complexity in your rotation outside of cooldowns as it can require you to pre-plan a little more when Apocalypse is coming off cooldown. That said, we’ve been playing with it and while it does require a bit of forethought during your rotation the tension hasn’t felt negatively impactful. We are very eager to hear your thoughts on this change when you have a chance to play it in game.

Our next round of Blood changes didn’t make this build, but we would like to address the concerns over Abomination Limb and it no longer generating Boneshield charges as the last round of changes heavily impacted Blood more so than the other specs. With the update to Bloods talents, we are looking at ways to compensate the change to Abomination Limb to ease the loss of Boneshield charges on pull.

We are also aware of an issue with Frost’s newest talent Arctic Assault generating Runic Empowerment which is not intended and will be fixed in an upcoming build.

Thank you for all your continued feedback and we will see you next week for an additional round of updates.