Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Complete 2h Unholy Tool Kit

Season 9 is here, and with it serious PvP is back in style.  I won't say I don't miss the lax attitude of the last couple months, but the fact of the matter is, if you want to seriously PvP in this season, now is the time to work at getting geared and ready to go.  The best time to get into PvP is at the start of a season, when the gear playing field is level.

With that in my, I'm taking a bit of a break from my informal Cataclysm leveling guide to walk you through pretty much ever current viable PvP spec, so that you can choose how you'd like to be playing this season.  I'm starting this off with 2 handed Unholy, because it has slightly higher dps than the other DK specs, and also has the most general utility.  Although frost and blood as a LOT more viable than they were last season, at least for the time being, Unholy is back to being the "it" spec.  A bit a shame?  Maybe, but that's just how it is.

The Spec

The basic spec, packing the best combination of dps and PvP utility (more or less, I haven't gone miles into the theorycrafting) is 0/8/33.  You aren't give a whole lot of choice with your Unholy talents, and in the frost tree there is absolutely no choice at all, because you need to pick up Lichborne, and Endless Winter.

So now you've seen the basic talent rundown, but what exactly is this spec packing?  Well dps rotation aside (we'll talk about that in a sec), it's got the standard Strangulate silence (which isn't a talent, so every DK spec features), a free mind freeze every 10 seconds and the additional ghoul stun.  This means, that if you need to lock down a caster, you can interrupt a cast with DG, chains of ice, strangulate, mind freeze, ghoul stun, mind freeze again, then drop dark simulacrum.  They won't know what hit them.

The spec is also packing Lichborne, one of my favourite frost talents, which makes you immune to those pesky stuns and gives you the ability to heal yourself with Death Coil.  The macro for that is:   
#showtooltip Lichborne
/cast !Lichborne;
/cast [target=player] Death Coil 
(Courtesy of arena junkies).

Let's talk glyphs

You don't have a ton of choice when it comes to your prime and major glyphs.  This list comes from Elitist Jerks, for optimal dps, and I'd say it's pretty solid for PvP as well.

[Glyph of the Ghoul] 
(as a side note, the mouseover for this won't work properly.  Please ignore wowhead's lack of a glyph of the ghoul atm, and just go with the name.  I'll fix that soon as I can.)
[Glyph of Scourge Strike] | [Glyph of Death and Decay], for AoE/DW (Yes I know thsi post doesn't discuss DW.  More on that in a future post).
[Glyph of Death Coil] | [Glyph of Icy Touch], for AoE.

[Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell]
[Glyph of Pestilence]
[Glyph of Blood Boil]

The minor glyphs in EJ are left up to your personal choice, and I'd agree with that.  They aren't going to affect your dps too much, so I wouldn't worry overly about it, take whatever floats your boat.

The Rotation

Okay.  So as I've already stated in a few past posts, the days of set DK rotations are behind us, in their place is a world of priority systems.  Now if you've PvPed before, you're probably already familiar with the concept.  PvP has never really had a set rotation, it's all about reaction to your situation.  Sure, if a friendly rogue has your target stunlocked, you may as well open up your pure dps rotation, but that's not gonna happen very often.
But, for purely academic purposes, and so that you have a rough understanding of the raid rotation, here's the priority system, once again courtesy of EJ:

Diseases > Dark Transformation > DnD*/SS if both Unholy and/or all Death runes are up > FeS if both pairs of Blood and Frost runes are up >
DC if SD, 100 RP, will overcap RP with anything else or if RC isn’t up > DnD/SS > FeS > DC > HoW.
HOWEVER, this is the raid priority system.  Yours will have to be different because of PvP.  Therefore, with that in mind, I've altered the system a little bit to account for PvP.

Diseases>Dark Transformation>INTERRUPTS*>Dark Simulacrum (vs. casters only)>DnD/SS if both UH and/or Death runes are up>FeS if both pairs of blood and frost are up>Necrotic Strike if one unholy or death rune is up>DC if Sudden Doom procs, or if you're at 130 RP, or about to ovecap>DnD/SS>FeS>DC>HoW.

 *Interrupts take precedence over everything if you are fighting a caster, especially a healer, and they're casting a spell.

Okay, so that probably seems really complicated.  Let me make it much simpler.  This PvP rotation is basically the same as the raid one with a few things in mind.

First, when a caster is casting, if you CAN, you SHOULD interrupt them.  Always.

Second, when you have your diseases up and have one unholy rune up, or one death rune, you should always necrotic strike as much as possible, unless it is impossible for that target to be healed.  In most cases, they'll have self-heals or the possibility of a healer jumping in to save them, so stacking necrotic strike as much as you can just makes sense.

Besides that, the dpsPvP is all about rolling with the punches and being ready for anything.  The benefit to knowing the rotation is just understanding how to dps.

Conclusion, and some thoughts on Ghoul Control

So, before I wrap this up, I want to run through a few basics EVERY Unholy DK should be aware of.  First, your ghoul is important, if it's dead and your raise dead is off CD, you should be bringing it back.  Second, you should have leap and gnaw keybound, not set automatically.  Got an ally running away?  Leap and stun.  Need an on-the-fly interrupt for that big heal, but have mind freeze and strangulate on CD?  Gnaw it up!  

Don't let the computer decide when to interrupt!  That's your job as the player.  I only leave Claw on automatic (since he should be using it every CD), and turn of huddle entirely, it's a complete waste of a GCD, when aggrro is meaningless in PvP.  Learning to use your ghoul effectively is one of the best things you can do as an Unholy PvPer.

Anyways, to wrap this up, Unholy is a very strong spec in the early days of Season 9.  2h UH packs the most utility, and according to most theorycrafters, the most dps.  If you're into min-maxing, this is probably the spec for you.  If you don't like unholy, never fear.  There's two other trees, and even a DW variation on UH and frost to come, so don't fret.  The difference between specs isn't too enormous, so you've definitely got options.

Until next time, Practice safe Death!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cataclysm Leveling: Deepholm (82-83)

My informal leveling guide/review returns with the next installment of brilliance.  Today I'm going to be going over the second zone I leveled through in Cataclysm- Deepholm.

Deepholm, unlike Vash'jir cannot be separated into a series of smaller zones, it's one, big zone.  It can, however, be broken up into the pieces of the plot which the zone takes you through.

The Elements are Angry
You're called to the zone by Thrall, who wants Alliance and Horde to work together to heal the world, which was damaged when Deathwing busted out of Deepholm.  That's right, this zone takes you right into the Earth Plane.  Deepholm is the area where Deathwing hid out while he was licking his wounds.

The main plot of the zone focuses around the need to heal the World Pillar, which is exactly what it sounds like:  a giant pillar in Deepholm which supports the entire world.  It's been broken into three pieces, which, as you can imagine is a bit of a problem for... the world. 

The Earthen Ring tasks you with the fairly clear job of reassembling the shattered World Pillar, which takes you all across Deepholm, and through another one of Cataclysm's great zones.

The First Two Pieces
When the Elementals say "oops"

 The first piece of the World Pillar takes you up against the raging Elementals of the area, and follows a pretty clear storyline.  You fight off the bad Elementals, save the piece of the Pillar, and do some quests.  Now I'm not saying this part of the zone is "bad" at all.  It's as good as any of the leveling we've seen in Cataclysm so far.  It's just lacking interesting twists and story which made Vash'jir so good.

However, it's during your quest for the second piece where things really start to get interesting.  In a surprising twist of fate, it turns out the Elementals aren't the bad guys here.  The Twilight Cultists are.  Now we knew the Twilight Cult was bad, but we didn't know they were in Deepholm.  Turns out, they're the ones that got Deathwing ready for his big, dramatic return.  And the reason the Elementals are attacking the Earthen Ring people, is because they've been pissed off by the Cult.

From there, fairly obviously, your job is to work out a somewhat diplomatic solution with the Elementals while looking for the second piece, which is with the Earthmother, the Elemental in charge.  You work for the Lords (their official name escapes me for some reason... Stone Lords, or something like that), in order to prove yourself to the Earthmother.  It's not the most original plot ever devised, but it's interesting and engaging and just as fun as Vash'jir was.  In other words- awesome.


I never thought I'd say this, but I love this dwarf. A lot.
The thing that makes leveling in Cataclysm is the little bits of awesome thrown in between the main plot points.  While hunting around for the second piece, you're sent to investigate an alliance airship, which reportedly attacked the Horde (unless you play alliance.  I have no idea what happens if you play alliance... sorry).  Turns out the Twilight Cult poisoned the supply of food and water on the ship, which killed of the crew.  While there, you meet the dwarf featured in the image above.

And it is a TON of fun.  During your somewhat predictable journey through the ship looking for the Cultist in charge, you eventually capture the bad guy by grabbing him with a GRYPHON.  No, that bird is not just for show.  The dwarf dangles the ogre in charge over a spinning propeller to get her information, it's a random piece of badassery that you just don't except.  I was predicting the ogre to fling himself overboard rather then give us what we want... or something.  But no, this dwarf chick basically beats the information out him.  Which wasn't expected at ALL.  But was really awesome.

My point?  Blizzard can throw in some wild cards that really makes their world seem alive.  Expect the unexpected.  The only guarantee in Cataclysm seems to be an awesome game.

The Third Piece

The World Pillar, reformed.

The third piece of the World Pillar is found with the Twilight Cult, and some very nasty dragons.  The result is a battle of epic proportions between the Earthen Ring allied with the Elementals and the Twilight Cult.  Your job during the war is essentially to take out the main figures of the Cult, which is actually very interesting.  Each "boss" is an elite, but is soloable.  They aren't tough because they hit so hard, or have so much health, that a player alone could never take them out.  They're difficult because of unique mechanics. 

Although Blizzard probably could have made these "Solo Bosses" a little bit tougher and gotten away with it, what they've succeeded in doing here is challenging players with solo content.  In other words, encounters designs based around one player, instead of a group or raid.  This is something we haven't seen a lot of before, and was good fun, and certainly lived up to my now high expectations of Cataclysm.

Epic?  Yes.

Deepholm was a great zone, all in all.  It didn't surprise me in the way Vash'jir did, because I expected awesome, and I got awesome.  But it was amazing.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but the battle with the Twilight Cult is a whole lot of fun, and continues to impress upon me how fantastic Cataclysm really is, in terms of leveling content.  Will the endgame be as epic?  Only time will tell, but based on what we've seen....

Yes.  It will. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cataclysm Leveling: Vash'jir (80-82)

So there I was.  At the release of Cataclysm.  Wetting my little gamer pants at the prospect of the fantastic wonders in store for me.  Now, because I wasn't in the beta, I actually made a serious effort to avoid all spoilers related to Cataclysm.  As a result, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when the expansion popped.

I did have a rough inkling that I wanted to head to Mount Hyjal, because I wasn't huge on the idea of a zone totally underwater.  After all, who wants to swim everywhere?  That's just silly.  However, after being unable to find "The Big Board" in Orgrimmar which a guildy kindly informed me was the path to Hyjal, I decided to go to the other way, after all a conveniently timed vision of Thrall as I entered Orgrimmar directed me to Vash'jir.  And there would be less people there.  So why not give it a shot?

Onike's Disclaimer:  This is NOT a "real" leveling guide.  It's just a rough outline of the zone, and my initial thoughts on Cataclysm questing.  If you want a step-by-step for the 80-85 zones, look elsewhere. 

 Vash'jir is actually really easy to find your way into.  Just get into Orgrimmar, and after witnessing Thrall's message to you from the Maelstrom (more on that later), you receive a quest which will lead you to a member of the Earthen Ring, who sends you off to a boat bound for Vash'jir.

Before you leave...

Train your professions!  This is really important.  Don't be like me, and forget that to get to 525 skill, you actually need to visit a trainer.  Especially if you're packing mining, which is  now worth experience (presumably herbalism is as well... but I don't have an herbalist, so I can't be 100% sure).  That way as you're travelling around, you don't have to worry about getting skill ups for your effort.  First Aid is also handy to carry around, especially if your class is lacking in self-heals.
Level 80s, bound for Vash'jir

Kelp'thar Forest

After an exceedingly awesome cut scene, you'll find yourself at the bottom of the ocean.  Now this is the part where I want to stress something.  You know those old quests that would have you swim to the bottom of lakes and kill mobs, etc. etc.?  And how boring they were?  Vash'jir is nothing like this.  You get a zone wide buff which allows you to breathe under water, and swim faster, and about halfway through the first zone, you're given a seahorse mount to swim around on.  The seahorse increases your swim speed by a ridiculous 450% while in Vash'jir, and it makes it so that you often forget you're actually under water.

A wake-up call

If you're like me, and used to being all epic-ed out at level 80, running about 2-shotting mobs on your dailies, you're in for a wake-up call.  Mobs hit hard now.  Really hard.  You'll find yourself frequently stopping to rest, and actually blowing cooldowns on pulls of more than one mob.  In fact, I'd advise against pulling more than one mob, if you can avoid it.  They've got around twice as much health as Northrend mobs, and a few fights with even the entry-level 80s, will take you down pretty low on health.

Also, a friendly warning.  If you use a lot of AoE spells (read: Howling Blast) regularly in your rotation, make sure you're not in range of other mobs, which it's all too easy to accidentally pull.  In Vash'jir, there are a huge number of non-agressive wildlife mobs, which hit as hard as the aggressive ones, and it's easy to pull them by mistake, turning a simple fight into a very difficult one.
Release the Kraken.

Quest Progression

It's not a term you're probably used to hearing.  But the way zones in Cataclysm are structured, it really feels as though you're progressing through a story.  Vash'jir has a plot, and so do all the zones which follow.  I HIGHLY recommend reading quest text, at the very least for the main quests.  You'll feel like you're really a part of the story, and it makes leveling way less of a drag than it has been in years past.

Anyways, after pushing your way through the Kelp'thar forest you'll eventually be told (literally- there's a lot less guess work in terms of where to go next than we're used to), to go to the Shimmering Expanse.

The Shimmering Expanse

Not quite Atlantis.  But close.
The Shimmering Expanse is the second zone in Vash'jir, and a lot more fun than the Kelp'thar forest.  If you felt like you were getting bored in Kelp'thar, of the same-old quests, Shimmering Expanse really pushes the story along.  This was especially true for me, since I was dealing with huge crowds in Kelp'thar and having to compete for every inch of questing.  Shimmering Expanse introduces a lot more phasing to cut population problems down.

In general, this zone is GOOD.  Not amazing, but a lonnnggg way from the grind that vanilla content was.  I think it was about halfway through this zone that I stopped counting the experience points until I leveled and finally started really enjoying the process.

The Abyssal Depths

When a goblin says "surface", he means it.  Now where's my parachute?
This zone is awesome.  It's a lot of fun.  About a quarter of the way through the zone, I dinged 82, which means I could have easily dropped out of Vash'jir and headed off to Deepholm.  My friends who were in the thick of their Realm First <Class> achievements races, while I was poking around in Vash'jirVash'jir out to the very end, baring dungeon quests, since I didn't want to tank and couldn't stomach the 30 minute dps queue.

Trust me, if you stick it out to The Abyssal Depths, if you aren't already in love with the zone, you will be.

Final Thoughts on Vash'jir

Although a lot of people will probably go into Vash'jir just because it's less crowded, if they actually allow themselves to get caught up in the story, like I did, I guarantee it's worth what some min-maxers are already dubbing "the long way from 80-82".  It's absolutely, 100% worth it.  So grab a bathing suit, and go swimming.  You'll have a blast.

Vash'jir aside, leveling in Cataclysm is a whole 'nother animal than vanilla, BC, or even Wrath content.  If you though leveling in Wrath was fun (and I honestly didn't- I found it got old very quickly), you will LOVE Cataclysm content.  And if you hated leveling in Wrath... you'll LOVE Cataclysm content.  It's amazing all around, and from what I've been told by my min-maxing friends, the content only gets better from here. 

It's kind of like being a little kid at Christmas.  You want to play with everything at once, take it all in in a few seconds.  But don't worry, those quests aren't going anywhere.  So enjoy the ride.  Trust me, it's not hard.